EOHHS: RI Opioid Settlement Planning Process Recognized

Published on Wednesday, June 28, 2023

The State of Rhode Island has received a 2023 second quarter Award for Excellence in the Application of the Opioid Litigation Principles, along with North Carolina.

The quarterly awards are designated by a coalition, led by faculty and staff at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, that developed a set of evidence-based Principles to help policymakers use opioid settlement funds effectively and equitably.

The Principles are:

  • Principle 1: Spend the money to save lives.
  • Principle 2: Use evidence to guide spending.
  • Principle 3: Invest in youth prevention.
  • Principle 4: Focus on racial equity.
  • Principle 5: Develop a fair and transparent process for deciding where to spend the funding.

“Every death is a tragedy,” said Governor Dan McKee. “Our administration is committed to countering this crisis - helped greatly by our ability to distribute the opioid settlement funds to community agencies doing critical lifesaving work every day. Recent data show that the number of fatal overdoses in Rhode Island did not increase from 2021 to 2022. Our Non-Hispanic Black Rhode Islanders continue to be most impacted and there was a notable 50% increase in the rate of fatal overdoses among Latino Rhode Islanders. Now that we have been investing settlement funds, we want to see these numbers decrease particularly among our most disproportionately impacted Rhode Islanders.”

To date, Rhode Island has secured over $171 million in cash and $78.5 million in lifesaving medication from opioid litigation settlements, with more resources on the way soon.

“As part of our response to one of the greatest modern tragedies in this country, our office has thus far secured over $250M in cash and lifesaving medication from the perpetrators of this unprecedented harm. That work continues, with more resources on the way soon,” said Attorney General Peter F. Neronha. “And while maximizing Rhode Island’s monetary recovery is critical, it was equally important to me that we established and cemented safeguards to ensure that funds coming to Rhode Island would be used for their intended purposes. We negotiated hard for an agreement with all of Rhode Island’s cities and towns to ensure that the vast majority, 80%, of the settlement funds would go to a statewide fund managed by EOHHS, with advice and guidance from a dedicated Opioid Settlement Advisory Committee, and subject to annual appropriations and transparency requirements. I am thankful to our partners at EOHHS and across government for their commitment to tackling this crisis head on and prioritizing the health and safety of all Rhode Islanders.”

A committee made up of representatives from the Principles coalition organizations that reviewed applications and selected this quarter’s awardees was impressed by Rhode Island’s early start to its planning process. By the spring of 2022, the state had already seated their advisory committee and by August of 2022, had approved the first round of expenditures. Additionally, the committee highlighted several areas that stood out in Rhode Island’s application.

“Rhode Island’s approach to settlement planning embodied many of the Principles,” say Sara Whaley, MPH, MSW, research associate at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and one of the coordinators of the Principles. “We were particularly impressed by the state’s commitment to using Principle 2 to support evidence-informed interventions it is funding, including the first state-funded harm reduction center in the country, and Principle 3 putting the largest portion of money, more than $4 million, towards youth prevention programs.”

The state has woven Principle 4, focusing racial equity throughout its work, including an explicit requirement that grantees’ projects support equity-funded work.

Rhode Island has already begun planning for the long term (Principle 1). The committee has already made recommendations for the fiscal year 2024 and beyond that were approved by the Secretary in the Fall and are now being considered by the General Assembly in its annual budget approval process.

“Rhode Island is honored to be recognized for our efforts with this award,” said Executive Office of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary Ana Novais. “The overdose epidemic remains a crisis in Rhode Island, and we will continue to be innovative as we fund life-saving projects and initiatives through our opioid settlements.”

“We’re proud to receive this recognition in Rhode Island, which only bolsters our commitment to continue to purposefully apply the Principles as we utilize settlement funds to abate the opioid epidemic and advance health equity,” said Carrie Bridges Feliz, Chairperson of the Rhode Island Opioid Settlement Advisory Committee.