By Alex Trubia
WASHINGTON, D.C .– On Tuesday, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline, and Governor Gina Raimondo announced $12.6 million in federal funding for Rhode Island’s battle against the opioid epidemic.
Rhode Island’s share from a grant program at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) rose from $2.1 million last year to $12.6 million as a result of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, also known as the Omnibus Appropriations law.
All four members of the delegation voted for the Omnibus, which included a $3.3 billion boost this year for opioid funding, with $142 million set aside specifically for states with the highest mortality rates from overdoses.
“This boost in federal funds will help those on the frontlines prevent drug abuse and treat addiction,” said Reed. “This is a smart investment in the health and well-being of people and our communities.”
Whitehouse, who is also the author of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, legislation guiding the federal response to the opioid epidemic that was signed into law in 2016, said Rhode Islanders have been “fighting courageously against opioid addiction” and have “made real gains.”
“To protect those gains, and to honor the people walking the long, noble road of recovery, we need to fund efforts that work,” Whitehouse added. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in the delegation to support this funding and the work of everyone on the front lines of this crisis in Rhode Island.”
According to the Rhode Island Department of Health, there were 323 accidental drug overdose deaths in Rhode Island last year, down from 336 in 2016–a year in which, as per U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rhode Island had the ninth highest drug overdose death rate of any state in the nation.
Langevin said he was also proud to fight alongside the rest of the state’s delegation for “this substantial funding increase and help deliver necessary resources to combat the opioid overdose epidemic in Rhode Island.”
“This public health crisis requires a comprehensive approach, and I remain dedicated to supporting these critical efforts at the federal level,” he added.
The funding is part of a $930 million round of grants nationwide that was first authorized by Congress in 2016 in the 21st Century Cures Act, which allocated $1 billion in funding for states to prevent and treat addiction.
Cicilline said it’s this type of federal funding that will “help save lives here in Rhode Island by providing resources to programs fighting this epidemic.”
“Rhode Island has been hit particularly hard by the opioid crisis and so many Rhode Island families have been devastated as a result,” he said. “The magnitude of this public health crisis requires a comprehensive national strategy and significant federal resources to finally end this epidemic.”
And Raimondo said the opioid overdose epidemic is “the biggest public health crisis facing Rhode Island today,” which is why the delegation has “launched an aggressive effort to combat it with every tool at our disposal.”
“This funding will be absolutely critical as we continue to fight to save lives,” the governor said. “Rhode Island is fortunate to have outspoken advocates in our congressional delegation, and I thank each of them for their steadfast commitment to fighting this crisis.”
The grant will go to Rhode Island’s Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH) to help prevention efforts, expand treatment capacity for medication assisted treatment as well as residential treatment for individuals and families, launch mobile treatment and induction services to reach under-served areas, increase availability of recovery support services and recovery housing, create a statewide pre-arrest diversion program and purchase lifesaving Naloxone.