February 18, 2015

Rhode Islanders Discuss Whitehouse Bill to Combat Drug Addiction & Support Recovery

Senator Hears from Members of the Rhode Island Addiction and Recovery Community in Pawtucket

Pawtucket, RI – Today, at a roundtable discussion at the Anchor Recovery Community Center in Pawtucket, Rhode Islanders like Abbie Stenberg shared their experiences with opiate drug addiction with U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and members of Rhode Island’s drug addiction and recovery community. 

Whitehouse hosted the event to discuss the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2015, which he introduced in the Senate last week, and to hear from those on the front lines of the fight against opiate addiction and overdose in the state.  Whitehouse’s legislation would establish programs designed to encourage states and local communities to pursue a full array of proven strategies to combat addiction. 

“In Rhode Island, while 200 people died from drug overdoses last year, thousands of others took strides to overcome addiction and work toward their recovery,” said Whitehouse. “My legislation will help support the path to recovery, and provide the tools needed by states, local governments, law enforcement, educators, and others.  I’m grateful to the Rhode Islanders who shared today their personal experiences with addiction recovery, and for their efforts to lead recovery in our communities.”

“I had a long hard road,” said Stenberg, 24, a Rhode Islander who struggled with heroin addiction after being prescribed opioid pain medication to treat a gymnastics injury.  Stenberg sought support from the Anchor Recovery Community Center, and after nearly two years in recovery has begun counseling other young women struggling with addiction in Rhode Island.  “Today, I’m able to be a productive member of society, a friend, a student, a support for other people in recovery . . .  I believe Senator Whitehouse’s bill is crucial to moving recovery forward in this country, and encompasses everything needed to start an effective recovery movement.”

Joining Whitehouse for the event were Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin; Rhode Island Department of Corrections Director A.T. Wall; Rhode Island Department of Health Director Dr. Michael Fine; and Rhode Island Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH) Director Maria Montanaro.

“The issue of drug addiction and abuse is one that reaches beyond Rhode Island borders.  It has become a national epidemic.  The only way we are going to be successful in combating drug abuse and addiction is a comprehensive approach to the issue, from identifying the underlying causes and providing those addicted with recovery programs to expanded law enforcement resources,” said Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin.  “I commend Senator Whitehouse for recognizing this as a national problem and for crafting legislation that will help individuals and law enforcement put an end to often deadly cycle of addiction.”

“This problem is very real. This is a problem that has no boundaries, that isn’t limited by location, gender, or age, and, as the numbers indicate, is not going away,” said Rhode Island Department of Health Director Dr. Michael Fine.

“Over the years we in the corrections field have seen our jails and prisons fill up with people whose core problem is substance abuse addiction.  We applaud this legislative initiative to address the issue as what it really is:  a vital matter of public health,” said Rhode Island Department of Corrections Director A.T. Wall.  

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2015:

  • Expands prevention and educational efforts—particularly aimed at teens, parents and other caretakers, and aging populations—to prevent the abuse of opioids and heroin and to promote treatment and recovery. 
  • Expands the availability of naloxone to law enforcement agencies and other first responders to help in the reversal of overdoses to save lives.  Gives priority consideration for grants to states that have implemented “good Samaritan” laws providing civil liability to first responders who give aid to prevent overdoses.
  • Expands resources to identify and treat incarcerated individuals suffering from addiction disorders promptly by collaborating with criminal justice stakeholders and by providing evidence-based treatment.
  • Expands disposal sites for unwanted prescription medications to keep them out of the hands of our children and adolescents.
  • Launches an evidence-based opioid and heroin treatment and interventions program.  While we have medications that can help treat addiction, there is a critical need to get the training and resources necessary to expand treatment best practices throughout the country.
  • Strengthens prescription drug monitoring programs to help states monitor and track prescription drug diversion and to help at-risk individuals access services.

Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chris Coons (D-DE), and Mark Kirk (R-IL) are original cosponsors of the bill.  Among others, the National District Attorneys Association, the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors (NASADAD), Faces and Voices of Recovery, the National Council for Behavioral Health, and the Major County Sheriffs’ Association support the legislation.


Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921