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Medical Professionals, Advocates Urge Gov., Health Officials To Push For Expanded Good Samaritan Law

Posted: June 22, 2015|Category: The "War on Drugs"

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As Governor Gina Raimondo and top state health officials gather later this morning to discuss responding to Rhode Island’s drug overdose epidemic, medical professionals and public health experts are asking them to throw their support behind a Senate bill pending in the General Assembly that would expand the legal immunity available to people who call 911 when they are witnessing or experiencing a drug overdose.

Last week, nineteen local medical associations and dozens of public health experts sent three separate letters to the House of Representatives, all urging their support of a Senate bill expanding the state’s Good Samaritan law. By contrast, a House version of the bill merely extends for another two years the limited protections contained in the current law. By passing the Senate bill, one of the letters exhorted, “lives will be saved in Rhode Island.”

The letters have been forwarded this morning to Governor Raimondo, RI Department of Health Director Nicole Alexander-Scott, and Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals Director Maria Montanaro, who are participating in today’s news conference.

A national report released last Wednesday showed that Rhode Island has the seventh highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the country. Overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in Rhode Island and is the number one killer of people leaving prison.

Medical associations signing on to one of the letters included the RI Medical Society; the American College of Physicians, RI Chapter; the RI Academy of Family Physicians; and the RI Society of Addictive Medicine. Among the individual signatories to the letters were Dr. Josiah Rich, MD, MPH; Dr. James Crowley, MD, former president of the Rhode Island Medical Society; Traci Green, Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine and Epidemiology, Brown University Alpert School of Medicine; and Michelle McKenzie, MPH, director of Preventing Overdose and Naloxone Intervention.

McGoldrick said this morning: “As the statistics show, the state’s current Good Samaritan protections are simply insufficient and must be strengthened. The gathering of the state’s top health officials this morning provides an opportune moment for them to help our efforts to save lives – and to save lives now – through passage of strong amendments to the Good Samaritan law.”

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