04.29.15

Whitehouse Fighting to Help RIers Combat Addiction

Senator Spoke at Washington, DC Forum Today on Heels of New Report about Overdose Deaths in RI

Washington, DC – On the heels of a new Providence Journal analysis showing that Rhode Island has a higher rate of opioid-related overdose deaths than neighboring states and the nation as a whole, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) is continuing his fight to help communities and individuals battle addiction.  Whitehouse, who is the lead Democratic sponsor of the bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, spoke today at a Capitol Hill event hosted by the Addiction Policy Forum. 

“There’s a whole new understanding about the role of addiction and recovery.  And most importantly, I think, there is a whole new appreciation of what addiction is and what recovery is,” Whitehouse said.  “Addiction is not a sin and a stigma.  It is an illness.  And recovery is not an occasion for shame – for going off into some quiet dark spot to make yourself less of a bad person.  It’s a march of courage, it’s an expression of humanity, it is something that we all should be proud of.  It is a hard path to walk.  And those who walk it deserve our respect.”

Video of Whitehouse’s remarks is available here.

According to the analysis published today by the Providence Journal, Rhode Island’s rate of opioid-related overdose deaths is 20.4 per 100,000 people, compared to 14.9 in Massachusetts and 15.3 in Connecticut.  According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the national rate in 2013 was 7.7 deaths per 100,000 people.

Whitehouse’s legislation would provide a series of incentives and resources designed to encourage states and local communities to pursue a full array of proven strategies to combat addiction – not just one or two.  In particular, it would:

  • Expand 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.
  • Expand the availability of naloxone to law enforcement agencies and other first responders to help in the reversal of overdoses to save lives.
  • Expand resources to identify and treat incarcerated individuals suffering from addiction disorders promptly by collaborating with criminal justice stakeholders and by providing evidence-based treatment.
  • Expand disposal sites for unwanted prescription medications to keep them out of the hands of our children and adolescents.
  • Launch 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.
  • Strengthen prescription drug monitoring programs to help states monitor and track prescription drug diversion and to help at-risk individuals access services.

The legislation is supported by 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, among others.

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