House passes Edwards bill expanding support following overdose, mental health ER visits

PORTSMOUTH, R.I. — The House of Representatives recently passed legislation introduced by House Majority Whip John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Portsmouth, Tiverton) that would expand the Alexander C. Perry and Brandon Goldner Act on hospital discharge planning.

The legislation (2019-H 5383) would amend the Rhode Island statute consistent with new federal HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) guidance by allowing hospitals to contact the patient’s emergency contact and certified peer recovery specialist in certain situations.

The bill amends the Alexander C. Perry and Brandon Goldner Act, which was enacted in 2016 to help ensure that patients treated at hospitals, clinics and urgent-care facilities for substance-use or mental health disorders receive the appropriate care, intervention by recovery coaches and follow-up care they need to address their addiction.  It requires comprehensive discharge planning for patients treated for substance use disorders and mental health issues and required insurers to cover medication-assisted addiction treatment including methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone. The bill is named for two individuals who died of overdoses during its development, and whose circumstances shaped it.

The change will improve support for those hospitalized for drug overdoses and mental health emergencies by increasing the likelihood that their families or others wishing to assist them with treatment are aware of their hospitalization.

“This bill is yet another way to help us combat the opioid crisis by ensuring that patients have the critical support they need during the transition from the hospital to recovery,” said Representative Edwards, who was selected as a 2019 Opioid Policy Fellow for the National Conference of State Legislatures. “By amending this successful law, Rhode Island will be more in tune with federal statute and allow hospitals to contact the people who are best suited to help them when they are discharged.”

Representative Edwards has supported numerous laws aimed at combatting the opioid crisis. Most recently, during the 2018 session, the General Assembly passed laws giving patients the option of only partially filling their prescription for painkillers, establishing a procedure for individuals to file a revocable voluntary non-opiate directive form with the patient’s licensed health care practitioner, allowing judges to sentence drug dealers who sell fatal doses of illicit drugs to up to life in prison, and directing the Department of Education to incorporate substance abuse and suicide prevention education into the health education curriculum.

He also took part in the Opioid Policy Fellows Program, which focuses on health policies and programs being addressed throughout the country, among them being the strengthening of prescription drug monitoring programs, developing prescribing guidelines, increasing naloxone access, and supporting access to treatment and recovery services.

The measure now moves to the Senate, which passed similar legislation (2019-S 0139A) introduced by Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence).

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