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Kristen’s Law won’t deter drug use and will ruin lives, say addiction experts



Both medical professionals and the recovery community stand against Kristen’s Law (S2279A / H7715), which would give up to a life prison sentence to anyone who provides a controlled substance that contributes to a death, even if it only partially contributes. At a news conference, hosted by Protect Families First, Dr Michael Fine and Dr Jody Rich joined public health and recovery advocates to oppose the “drug homicide” law now making its way through the Rhode Island General Assembly and to advocate for more effective, humane approaches to the overdose epidemic.

“While we understand that the intentions behind the proposed legislation are to address the overdose epidemic that has killed too many people in Rhode Island, we feel that the bill as it currently stands will be counterproductive: It will hurt the same people it claims to help,” said Annajane Yolken, Executive Director of Protect Families First. Simply stated: Revenge is not the answer to this crisis.”

“It sounds very simple. People are using. People are selling other people these toxic, dangerous fentanyl-like compounds, and those people are taking them and not expecting to, but dying. So why don’t we just make that illegal, and make the penalties so severe that people will not do that and then the problem will go away? It sounds simple,” said Dr Jody Rich, Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and expert advisor to Governor Gina Raimondo‘s Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force. “Unfortunately, it’s just not simple.”

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Haley McKee, is a person in long-term recover.About seven years ago she was involved in a hit-and-run, with death resulting. As she awaited incarceration, she developed a heroin addiction, based on her on again/off again battle with pain pills. She is a person in recovery, and is working to be a better person. If enacted, Kristen’s Law would prevent people like McKee from changing their lives.

“I’m with the rest of the people up here it terms of understanding that the bill as written is not the bill we need,” said Dr Michael Fine, family medicine doctor and former director of the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH). “We need to be thinking about how to value the lives of all Rhode Islanders…”

“Guys that were using heroin when the went in [prison] they are the guys who are dying more. They don’t even know the potency of the heroine that’s hitting the street now,” said Anthony Hollins, who lost his son to an overdose just months ago. “Everyone I know that went to jail with a heroine habit when they got out within a couple weeks they’re dead.”

Here are some questions from reporters. Governor Raimondo has indicated that she is inclined to sign Kristen’s Law if it passes, despite the opposition of her Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force’s expert advisor. Dr Nicole Alexander-Scott, Raimondo’s RIDOH Director, has been publicly silent on the bill.

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About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.