RI Receives $2.1 Million in Federal Funds to Stem Opioid Crisis

Friday, April 21, 2017

Providence, RI – U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed and Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline today announced $2,167,000 in federal funding for Rhode Island’s Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH) to stem the opioid epidemic claiming the lives of dozens of Rhode Islanders every month.  The federal funding is the result of $485 million in grants nationwide that was authorized by Congress last year in the 21st Century Cures Act and signed into law by President Obama.

“The opioid addiction epidemic is devastating communities across Rhode Island, and this funding will make a real difference in our ability to respond to this crisis,” said Congressman David Cicilline, who is helping lead the effort in Congress to expand the use of Naloxone by law enforcement agencies. “The 21st Century Cures Act is a commonsense piece of legislation that directed $1 billion in funding over two years to help states expand access to lifesaving treatments, improve prescription drug monitoring, and more.  I am glad that Congress was able to work together in a bipartisan way to begin to address this crisis.”

“From Burrillville to Westerly, I have heard from countless Rhode Islanders whose lives and communities have been turned upside down by the opioid addiction crisis.  That’s why I fought to pass my bipartisan, comprehensive addiction legislation and for funding to make sure the federal government is helping those on the front lines battling this crisis.  This money will be put to good use in Rhode Island to address this public health crisis we’re facing,” Whitehouse said.  In July, President Obama signed into law Whitehouse’s Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which established a range of policies to prevent and treat addiction to opioid drugs, including programs to increase education on drug use, to expand medication-assisted treatment, to improve prescription drug monitoring programs, to support those in recovery, and to promote comprehensive state responses to the opioid crisis.

“This federal funding will help Rhode Island’s law enforcement, doctors and nurses, and treatment and recovery providers address the opioid epidemic and save lives.  This grant will help the state better connect people asking for help to the services and support they need.  We need to improve addiction recovery outcomes and ensure people who need help have access to life saving treatments.  No community is immune to this problem and we have to overcome barriers to treatment.  This funding is a step in the right direction, but Congress needs to do a lot more and I will continue pressing for additional funds to prevent and treat addiction to opioid drugs,” said Senator Jack Reed

“Opioid addiction has become an epidemic that has devastated the lives of too many Rhode Islanders.  We must ensure that every resource is made available to provide the treatment and prevention services necessary to stem the tide of this crisis, and this $2.1 million grant will play an important role in these efforts,” Congressman Jim Langevin said. “I applaud Senator Whitehouse for championing the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, and I will do everything in my power to protect this funding because it will help save the lives of so many."

The federal funding will increase access to lifesaving treatment and expand addiction prevention efforts, with the goal of reducing the growing number of prescription drug and opioid overdose-related deaths in Rhode Island.  There were over 326 drug overdose deaths in the state last year and 290 deaths in 2015, according to the Rhode Island Department of Health.

“This vital funding is going to help ensure that tools and resources that are critical to fighting the drug overdose epidemic, such as naloxone, prevention education, and medication-assisted treatment, get to where they are needed most in Rhode Island.  The funding that Senator Whitehouse fought for is also going to bring crucial support to our work to prevent fentanyl-related overdoses,” said Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. “We have lost more than 1,200 lives to drug overdoses in the last five years. Every single one of those deaths was preventable.  Addiction is a disease, but recovery is absolutely possible.”

“We are grateful to Senator Whitehouse for sponsoring this important piece of legislation.  Rhode Island’s fight against the opioid epidemic will be that much stronger with the funding attached to this bill which will target increased prevention, education, treatment and the integration of behavioral health into primary care,” Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities & Hospitals Acting Director Rebecca Boss said. “These funds will fill gaps in our system and provide a comprehensive approach in our effort to respond to this crisis.”

The funding is the first of two rounds provided for in the 21st Century Cures Act, which allocated $1 billion in grant funding for states to prevent and treat addiction. 

Michelle M. Harter, Associate Director of Recovery Support Services at Anchor Recovery Community Centers said, “With Anchor Recovery being on the front lines of this opioid epidemic in Rhode Island we are thrilled that the State will be receiving $2.1 million from the federal government through the many efforts of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.  For several years, we have watched as the Senator visited many cities and towns throughout Rhode Island to listen to and learn first-hand about the suffering and powerlessness of his constituents.  With 21st Century Cures and CARA we will be able to delve deeper into recovery supports to help those who need it.  Thank you Senator for your tireless efforts for those in Recovery and those trying to find recovery.”

“As a professional working in the field of substance use disorders for more than 30 years, I can honestly say that I am aware of no one who has been more proactive and effective in partnering with the opioid treatment community than Senator Whitehouse,” said Linda Hurley, President and CEO of CODAC, Inc.  “In 2010, years before the current opioid epidemic was making national headlines, Sheldon Whitehouse took the time to meet with CODAC to discuss issues confronting the treatment and recovery communities in Rhode Island.  He and his staff were eager to know what we needed and how they could help. Since that time, Senator has been a tireless advocate in the battle against opioid addiction and overdose.  CODAC was privileged to have been consulted during the drafting of the bipartisan CARA bill, of which Sen. Whitehouse was a co-sponsor.  CARA is the most thorough, responsible and visionary effort to address opioid addiction and overdose that we have seen.”

“I am thrilled to learn of the allocation of significant funding for Rhode Island’s efforts to provide the services and resources so desperately needed, and, historically, so inadequately supported,” Hurley continued, “and it is clear to me that Senator Whitehouse’s efforts in the U.S. Senate and in Rhode Island communities are, in part, responsible for this infusion of dollars into the state.  At a time when addiction and overdose rates continue to rise, systems are being pushed beyond capacity.  This new funding will allow Rhode Island providers to expand and enhance prevention, treatment and recovery supports to individuals, families and communities across the state that are struggling to combat this epidemic.”

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