More people died from drug overdoses in the United States in 2014 than during any previous year on record. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a total of 47,055 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States in 2014.
241 of those deaths happened in Rhode Island. By comparison, California registered 4,521 drug overdose fatalities in 2014, that is almost 19 times more but California’s population is 39 times the size of Rhode Island. The 2015 figures appear to be even higher.
Legislators in Rhode Island have now introduced a bill in the State House that would require insurance companies to cover at least 90 days of residential inpatient services for substance abuse disorders.
The legislation has been filed at the request of Attorney-General Peter Kilmartin and is sponsored by Elizabeth Crowley in the Senate and Representative Patricia Serpa in the House.
“We have too many people dying in our state from overdoses and this is in part because the brutal and harrowing cycle of addiction cannot be broken without effective medical care,” Senator Crowley said in a press release. “It is morally wrong to put these people back on to the street to fight their addiction on their own due to monetary insurance reasons.”
It’s not only a moral obligation, either. Not providing adequate help for people suffering from addiction will simply perpetuate the problem and the burden for the community as a whole.
“You have to look at the long term,” Senator Crowley told me. She thinks, people with substance use disorders often don’t receive treatment long enough, if at all. “90 days might seem expensive at first but in the long run everybody saves.”
Treatment offers the best alternative for interrupting the drug abuse/criminal justice cycle, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Untreated substance abusing offenders are more likely than treated offenders to relapse to drug abuse and return to criminal behavior.”
In Rhode Island as elsewhere, the aim is to avoid incarceration which is expensive and reduce criminal activities related to drugs which are an obvious problem for the community.
Crowley wants to make sure, all areas will be exhausted to tackle the addiction epidemic in the Ocean State. “The aim is to make it as easy as possible to seek treatment and treat the whole person as well as the family,” she says.