Bill signed to expand support following overdose, mental health ER visits

PORTSMOUTH, R.I. — With the governor’s signature, a new law passed by the General Assembly has expanded the Alexander C. Perry and Brandon Goldner Act on hospital discharge planning to better help patients with drug and mental health emergencies with recovery.

Sponsored by Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller and House Majority Whip John G. Edwards, the legislation (2019-S 0139A2019-H 5383) allows hospitals to contact the patient’s emergency contact and a certified peer recovery specialist in certain situations, amending Rhode Island law to make it consistent with new federal HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) guidance.

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.

“Engaging patients’ personal support networks is critical to helping them recover and to ending the cycle of relapse and re-hospitalization. The federal government has recognized that patients with addiction or mental health issues may be unwilling or unable to consent to contact with their emergency contact or recovery coach. Amending state law to allow hospitals to make those calls will help provide better treatment and connect patients to support when they are discharged,” said Senator Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence).

The bill amends the Alexander C. Perry and Brandon Goldner Act, which was sponsored by Chairman Miller 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 required 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.

“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.”

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