General Assembly passes bill allowing officials to gather information from those who die of overdoses


STATE HOUSE — The General Assembly today passed legislation introduced by Rep. Joshua J. Giraldo (D-Dist. 56, Central Falls) and Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence) that would allow the collecting of information from overdose deaths to aid in prevention strategies.

The legislation (2023-H 5682A, 2023-S 0721A) would allow the Department of Health and the multidisciplinary team for review of drug overdose deaths to gather information on the circumstances surrounding those deaths to identify prevention and intervention strategies — as long as the relatives of the deceased are willing to provide the information.

“The opioid crisis in this state has reached an ultra-critical level,” said Representative Giraldo. “According to the Rhode Island Medical Examiner’s office, we went from 384 overdose deaths in 2021 to 435 last year. This is a public health emergency that requires new and innovative ways to tackle the problem — and having more information about these overdose fatalities will mean better prevention and intervention techniques, as well as better laws and policies.”

Under the legislation, the information gathered would remain confidential and not be subject to subpoena, discovery, or introduction into evidence in any civil or criminal proceeding, and would not be subject to disclosure beyond the team members except to authorized employees.

“This bill is aimed at preventing overdose deaths and loosening the grip of this terrible epidemic on Rhode Island,” said Senator Miller, who chairs the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services. “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.”

The measure now moves to the governor’s office.