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House Corporations Committee weighs bill to require signs in pharmacies warning about opioid addiction



State Representatives Justine Caldwell (Democrat, District 30, East Greenwich) and Michael Chippendale (Republican, District 40, Coventry, Foster Glocester) introduced a bipartisan bill, H5184, that would, “require that pharmacies display a notice of warning regarding use of opioids and/or other schedule II controlled substances compiled by the department of health relating to the overuse, misuse and mixing with other drugs and/or alcohol.”

“The pharmacy is really the last point of contact that we have… the last place we can reach them,” said Caldwell introducing the bill to the committee.

At the pharmacy, Caldwell noted, “the tobacco warnings are still there and when the Surgeon General warnings came out we did notice a significant decrease in cigarette smoking. Obviously that was not the only part of it, but like that, this is one small part that can help propel this issue forward.”

“Those of you who know me well would look at this bill and say ‘What the heck is your name doing on it? You’re the guy who’s always crying about us imposing unfunded mandates on businesses and stuff’ and yeah, that’s true. I am that guy. However, I’m also a guy who’s able to understand this issue and its complexities,” said Chippendale, who also took a minute to introduce the bill. “Public awareness is raised by repetition… We need to hear it everywhere. Whatever costs incurred to a business to display information pales in comparison to the good, I believe, it will do.”

The bill was supported by the co-chairs of the Substance Use Policy Education and Recovery PAC, Lisa Peterson and Haley McKee.

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“The public has long been intentionally provided with misinformation about the safety of opioids… and other prescription medications,” said Peterson, “And we have an opportunity to counter this with consistent, targeted marketing of the facts that includes the benefits proposed in this bill in conjunction with our other evidence based interventions.”

The bill would also require pharmacists to inform patients that they may receive a partial fill of their prescription if requested. Keeping too many dangerous pills out of the hands of vulnerable people can be an important preventative or recovery strategy.

Haley McKee, who is also a person in recovery, touched on this in her testimony, saying, “A person that’s trying to exercise harm reduction, or keep a narcotics scrip out of the hands of a child in the house should also be aware of the fact that the pharmacy can hold their medication safely.”

House Corporations Chair Robert Jacquard (Democrat, District 17, Cranston) noted that the legislation is supported by Steven DeToy of the Rhode Island Medical Society and John Tassoni Jr from the Substance Use and Mental Health Leadership Council of Rhode Island, who provided written testimony in support. CVS Pharmacies wrote to Jacquard that the company may support the legislation with some amendments.

Lisa Peterson
Haley McKee

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Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.