Senate approves bill seeking more information on overdose deaths to guide prevention efforts


STATE HOUSE – The Senate today approved legislation sponsored by Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller to give the Department of Health access to more information about overdose deaths in Rhode Island to better identify opportunities to prevent them.

The legislation (2023-S 0721A), which was requested by the Department of Health, builds on a law enacted in 2018 that created a review process within the State Medical Examiners Office for deaths by overdose for the purpose of examining emerging trends in overdose, identifying potential demographic, geographic, and structural points for prevention and other factors. Under that law, a multidisciplinary team reviews data about overdose deaths to search for patterns and trends so the Department of Health can better target its prevention efforts.

Senator Miller’s bill would allow the team to speak to the families of the deceased, if the families are willing, to gather more information about the circumstances leading up to the overdose. Any information families provide to the team would, by law, remain confidential and not be subject to subpoena, discovery or introduction into evidence in any civil or criminal proceeding, just as other information collected by the team is.

“This bill is aimed at preventing overdose deaths and loosening the grip of this terrible epidemic on Rhode Island. While of course this would be voluntary and no family would be required to provide any information if they would prefer not to, those who wish to do so could help identify ways to save Rhode Islanders’ lives and prevent other families from suffering as they have,” said Chairman Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence).

The legislation now goes to the House of Representatives, which has passed companion legislation (2023-H 5682A) sponsored by Rep. Joshua J. Giraldo (D-Dist. 56, Central Falls).