The Rhode Island legislature on Thursday sent a bill to the governor’s desk that would establish a safe consumption site pilot program where people could test and use currently illicit drugs in a medically supervised environment. If signed into law, the state would be the first in the country to legalize the facilities.
The harm reduction legislation was approved by the House of Representatives on Tuesday, when lawmakers also accepted a Senate companion version. On Thursday, the Senate, which had passed an earlier version of the bill in February, approved changes and gave final approval—sending the proposal to Gov. Dan McKee (D).
If the governor approves the measure, individual municipalities would still need to authorize the facilities to operate in their jurisdictions during the two-year pilot program.
“The opioid epidemic has become a tremendous public health crisis, with overdoses of prescription and non-prescription opioids claiming a record number of lives,” Rep. John Edwards (D), sponsor of the House bill, said in a press release. “Not only do harm reduction centers severely mitigate the chance of overdose, they are a gateway to treatment and rehabilitation of people with substance abuse disorder.”