PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Governor Gina M. Raimondo, joined by Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott and leaders from the state General Assembly, today hosted a ceremonial bill signing of legislation strengthening Rhode Island’s response to the opioid overdose crisis.

“This epidemic is our single greatest public health crisis, and the legislation I signed today will help our state fight back and save lives,” Raimondo said. “I hear stories from families hurt by overdose everywhere I go. Fentanyl-related overdose deaths in Rhode Island have spiked in the past year, and I commend the General Assembly for passing legislation that specifically targets this problem. By ensuring that patients are aware of the risks of opioid addiction and increasing the penalties for trafficking fentanyl, we are steps closer to winning this fight.”

“The legislation signed by Governor Raimondo today allows Rhode Island to address the opioid overdose crisis in a more comprehensive way, ” Health Director Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, said. “We know that addiction is a disease, but every single overdose death in Rhode Island is absolutely preventable because recovery is possible. I thank the General Assembly and Governor Raimondo for their leadership in this fight to save Rhode Island lives.”

In 2016, 336 Rhode Islanders died of drug overdoses, up from 290 in 2015. This increase in overdose deaths is largely associated with increased use of synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl. Fentanyl-related overdose deaths accounted for 57% of all overdose deaths in 2016, up from 47% in 2015. This trend in Rhode Island mirrors the regional trend and trends in many states nationally.

Fighting Rhode Island’s opioid overdose crisis has been one of Governor Raimondo’s top priorities since she took office. In August of 2015, she signed an Executive Order to create the Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force. Last month, the Governor signed a follow-up Executive Order to implement Rhode Island’s opioid crisis Action Plan and announced that CVS Health would be opening an Opioid Center of Excellence in Woonsocket. The Center of Excellence will provide outpatient treatment for Rhode Islanders suffering from substance use disorder.

The Governor today signed the following legislation:

Makes fentanyl analogs and synthetic opioids controlled substances
Bills: H5738, S812
Sponsors: Representative Canario, Senator Crowley

Enhances penalties for trafficking of fentanyl
Bills: H5517A, S805A
Sponsors: Representative Corvese, Senator Crowley

Requires electronic prescribing for drugs in schedules II, II, IV, and V and adds opioid antagonists (including naloxone) to be transmitted to the Department of Health’s
Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP)
Bills: H5975A, S546aa
Sponsors: Representative Ackerman, Senator Crowley

Requires health professionals to discuss addiction potential before prescribing opiates
Bills: H6307, S493A
Sponsors: Representative Diaz, Senator Archambault