Senate OKs Miller bills to improve treatment for substance use, mental health disorders


STATE HOUSE – The Senate today passed two bills sponsored by Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller aimed at improving treatment for those with substance use and mental health disorders.

The first bill (2023-S 0027) would help ensure that patients discharged from hospitals with mental health disorders, including substance abuse disorders, are discharged into the appropriate inpatient or outpatient setting quickly and efficiently. It would require that health plans cover residential or inpatient behavioral health treatment, and would prohibit prior authorization requirements for such treatment.

“Patients who visit the emergency room for a problem involving substance abuse shouldn’t be just sent home or discharged to the street if they need further recovery services. The chances of a patient actually getting the help they need and succeeding in their recovery are drastically reduced if they don’t start right away,” said Chairman Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence), who has sponsored numerous laws to help encourage rehabilitation and smooth the transition to it for patients who are discharged from hospitals. “The most effective way to help people with substance abuse disorders is to make it as easy as possible for them to get into recovery treatment. We need to do everything we can to eliminate any waiting and any administrative hoops they have to jump through. The quicker they walk in the door, the better chance they have at recovery, and the more likely they are to avert an overdose or other serious problem.”

This bill requires the Department of Health and the Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals to develop and implement a plan to ensure that patients with mental health disorders, including substance use disorders, are discharged from hospitals into the appropriate inpatient or outpatient settings as quickly and efficiently as possible.

It requires that health plans provide coverage for necessary residential or inpatient services for the treatment of behavioral health disorders, and prohibits them from requiring preauthorization prior to a patient obtaining such services. Under the bill, the treatment facility would need to provide the health plan notification of admission, proof that an assessment was conducted, the initial treatment plan, and an estimated length of stay within 48 hours of admission. This bill also requires hospitals to incorporate consent for peer recovery specialist services into a comprehensive patient consent form.

The Senate also approved legislation (2023-H 0025) sponsored by Chairman Miller to require the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH) to coordinate with the Department of Health to propose revisions to sections of the general laws relating to alcoholism and emergency commitment for drug intoxication, including updates and revisions of statutory language and evidence-based best practices.

“Some parts of our laws concerning substance use treatment are 40 or 50 years old. Besides containing language and terms that are now offensive and insensitive, they also need to be modernized to reflect today’s practices. Our laws should not perpetuate stigmas, and should be supportive of the efforts to effectively treat people affected by substance use disorders.”

The bill requires BHDDH to report its proposed changes to the General Assembly by Jan. 1, 2024, enabling legislators to consider enacting them.

Both bills now go to the House of Representatives.