June 28, 2022

Rep. Edwards appointed to Opioid Settlement Agreement Advisory Committee

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State House — Speaker of the House K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) has appointed Majority Floor Manager John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth) to serve on the newly formed Opioid Settlement Agreement Advisory Committee.

The committee, which includes state and town officials, is tasked with recommending how to utilize funds from several settlement with opioid manufacturers amounting to $185 million. Edwards will serve as the House speaker’s designee on the panel.

“The opioid epidemic has become a tremendous public health crisis, with overdoses of prescription and non-prescription opioids claiming a record number of lives,” said Representative Edwards. “I’m grateful to Speaker Shekarchi for naming me to this committee. This crisis has caused so much pain and destroyed so many families in our state, and I look forward to working with other officials to determine the best ways to utilize this money to help our communities heal.”

In addition to Edwards, the panel will include designees from the attorney general, the Senate president, the chief justice, the director of the Department of Health, and the director of the Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals. It will also include six members from various cities and towns throughout the state.

The committee, which is coordinated by the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, will help to determine how best to distribute the funds to the state and all 39 cities and towns to respond to the challenges brought on by the opioid epidemic, which have grown substantially during the COVID pandemic.

Representative Edwards has long been in the vanguard of legislation addressing the opioid crisis, and was selected as a 2019 Opioid Policy Fellow for the National Conference of State Legislatures. That same year, he sponsored a state law to improve hospital discharge planning to better accommodate patients with drug and mental health emergencies with recovery.

Last year, he sponsored a law (2021-H 5245A) that authorizes a two-year pilot program to prevent drug overdoses through the establishment of harm reduction centers, which are a community-based resource for health screening, disease prevention and recovery assistance where persons may safely consume pre-obtained substances.

During that same session, the General Assembly enacted a law (2021-H 5485) he introduced to exclude the possession of buprenorphine from those controlled substances that can result in criminal penalties. Buprenorphine is a prescription drug used to treat opioid use disorder.

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