About two dozen people gathered in the rotunda of the Rhode Island State House to protest the governor’s signing of Kristen’s Law. The governor has committed to signing this bill into law despite the continued and vehement opposition from the medical, public health, and recovery communities.
Kristen’s Law exposes anyone who provides a controlled substance to someone who has a fatal overdose to a potential life sentence.
Anthony Hollins, who lost a son five months ago and his step daughter about 11 months ago to a fatal drug overdose, spoke out against the law. “So I understand what Kristen’s motheer is going through. The loss of her daughter, I fully understand that. But I lost two kids as well.” Hollins said that increasing penalties and continuing the war on drugs hasn’t worked, and suggested that what was needed was more education.
“Anthony is proof that you can have loss in your life and not seek revenge, but seek redemption,” said Representative Moira Walsh (Democrat, District 3, Providence) who helped organize the event. In an impassioned but reasoned speech, Walsh continued, sometimes fighting back tears:
“I have no illusions that coming here today is going to convince Governor Raimondo to veto this bill, mostly because Governor Raimondo herself knows how bad this bill is. She said as much when she said we will revisit it in a couple of years. There is no public signing. She’s signing it behind closed doors because she’s well aware that this is a travesty.
“Earlier this week I was at a press conference with Governor Raimondo. While she lamented the children being taken away from their parents at the border. She saw no irony in the fact that she would be signing a law to take other people’s children away, today.
“Drug addicts are people too. I find it weird how many times I have to say that but I will say it until I’m blue in the face. There’s no manual for addiction. it’s not only poor people, or only irresponsible people, or only people who deserve it.
“My brother has dealt with addiction for a very long time and my mother used to say, ‘There’s no handbook on how to raise a son with mental illness,” and she’s right.
“I understand that Kristen’s mom is angry. I understand that she’s hurt. But revenge is not the way to do this. The War on Drugs has already ripped so many children away from their parents. It traumatizes generations.
“And Governor Raimondo knows this.
“A few months ago at this State House we had a march for science, where we complained that the national administration was ignoring the scientific community in their pursuit of draconian legislation. And here we are, Rhode Island, one of the bluest states in the union, and we are doing the same. We are denying the dozens of medical communities who came out and said that this bill was vengeful, mean-spirited and not going to save any lives.
“Governor Raimondo said that we would revisit this in a couple of years, to see what the human toll was. And I’m just curious as to what tally mark I should be waiting for. Is it ten dead neighbors? Is it twenty? Is it fifty?
“If the Governor signs this bill into law today, she should go ahead and change her [party] affiliation, because there is nothing Democratic about this.
“And she should be ashamed.
“We are begging you, Governor, to use science, to use logic, to use history to inform your decisions.
“Anthony is right. Communities like mine, District 3 in Providence, have experienced opioid epidemics and drug epidemics for years. And now that it’s creeping into Cranston, we have to put in a law.
“We hear you loud and clear. You’re saying that our lives, if we live under a certain dollar amount, don’t matter to you.
“We are begging you to veto this law.
“Real lives are more important than re-election.
“And at the very least, every person here today, can say to their loved ones that are struggling, that we did everything that we could.”
Here’s the video of Walsh’s speech:
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Lisa Peterson LMHC/LCDP/MAC, an organizer for the Rhode Island Womxn’s Action Initiative, has been working in the treatment field for over twenty years:
Darryl Gould was at the event to represent the Rhode Island Libertarian Party:
Annajane Yolken, Executive Director of Protect Families First asked people to sign their own version of a bill, which does have support from the public health and recovery communities:
Here’s father and advocate Anthony Hollins:
My apologies to recovery advocate Haley McKee. I arrived too late to record her presentation.
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