The Legislature passed a resolution Friday directing the Governor’s Office to establish a working group tasked with studying the ability of “safe consumption sites” to effectively prevent opioid overdose deaths.
“Safe consumption sites” are facilities where individuals can use previously-obtained illicit drugs under medical supervision without fear of arrest.
Originally, the Legislature was considering a bill that would have authorized towns and cities to establish “safe consumption sites” if they desired to do so.
Proponents of the bill suggested that such sites are essential to addressing the epidemic of drug overdose deaths.
Opponents, on the other hand, argued that there is little evidence concerning the efficacy of safe consumption sites when it comes to reducing drug abuse. They also suggested that such sites actually have the potential to exacerbate the problem.
This version of the bill, however, was rejected by a roll call vote of 16-18 in the Senate. Unlike many bills that are brought before the legislature, support and opposition for LD 1364 was not neatly divided along party lines.
Following this initial vote, Sen. Rick Bennett (R-Oxford), who supported the bill, motioned for the Senate to consider an amendment to LD 1364 replacing the original bill with a resolution directing the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future to “convene a working group to study methods of preventing opioid overdose deaths by authorizing harm reduction health centers.”
The working group must consist, at a minimum, of representatives of the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Public Safety, “an organization that advocates for persons with substance use disorder,” and the “recovery treatment community,” as well as a “municipal representative,” a medical professional, and a “person who has experienced substance use disorder.”
This working group will be charged with “evaluat[ing] options for, identify[ing] barriers to and develop[ing] findings and recommendations regarding the prevention of opioid overdose deaths by authorizing harm reduction health centers in the State.”
By February 15, 2024, the working group needs to produce a report detailing its findings and recommendations, as well as any proposed legislation.
The Senate ultimately adopted this change and passed LD 1364 to be engrossed as amended. The legislation was then sent back down to the House for concurrence.
Three days later, on June 23, the House followed suit and approved the amended version of the bill.
Nationwide, the state of Rhode Island and a handful of cities have legalized the establishment of “safe consumption sites.”