R 411
97-S 275A am
Passed in Concurrence
Jun. 27, 1997



WHEREAS, The General Assembly recognizes that substance abuse is a problem that affects all strata of society from childhood to old age and from the very poor to the very wealthy and that a strategy needs to be developed for the State of Rhode Island that advances and emphasizes the parallel need for both prevention and treatment as much as possible, with particular focus on preventive and intervention programs for young people; and

WHEREAS, Society is especially compromised and diminished by the very high rate of substance abuse among persons in the criminal justice system and among juveniles in the juvenile justice system. Substance abuse contributes heavily to family violence, child abuse and the loss of parental rights. Substance abuse is also a significant factor in unemployment and job loss, with a concomitant effect on lack of child support and on family dissolution; and

WHEREAS, According to ongoing research, ten percent (10%) of the population suffers from substance abuse and at least one-half (1/2) of the one and one-half (1 1/2) million to two (2) million Americans who suffer from severe mental illness correspondingly struggle with alcohol or drug addiction. The combination of mental illness and substance abuse results in an extremely debilitating condition requiring specialized forms of treatment; and

WHEREAS, Increasingly emerging in recent years is the concept and practice of behavioral health care -- an approach that utilizes treatment techniques for both mental illness and substance abuse. Behavioral health care can provide such individuals with a range of programs and services specifically designed to help them on the road to recovery; and

WHEREAS, Due to the signal and seminal importance of coordinating and integrating mental illness and substance abuse services in a coordinative manner that will benefit the State of Rhode Island, especially those individuals in need of such services, there is a need to evaluate current practices, procedures, policies, and programs. The schism in the provision of treatment services and programs for mental illness and substance abuse is not particularly unique to Rhode Island. There had been support to treat these anomalies in separate and discreet ways. However, that tendency is now diminishing and several states have integrated or are integrating behavioral health care service models.

RESOLVED, In view of these developments, it is in the best interests of the citizens of the State of Rhode Island to establish a special commission on mental illness and substance abuse services. The purpose of such a commission is to study the state's policy with regard to the treatment of substance abuse and to identify the state's priorities for persons to be served, including persons with severe mental illness and substance abuse, persons in the criminal justice and the juvenile justice systems, families involved with child welfare system, pregnant women, and others who are receiving services from the state. The commission shall study the most effective authority and framework of state government in which to provide substance abuse treatment services in accordance with these priorities. The commission shall make recommendations to the general assembly and to the executive branch of government in accordance with its findings and its purpose.

The commission shall be comprised of fifteen (15) members as follows: three (3) members of the senate to be appointed by the senate majority leader, at least one (1) of whom shall be a member of the minority party; three (3) members of the house of representatives to be appointed by the speaker of the house of representatives, at least one (1) of whom shall be a member of the minority party; the director of the department of health or designee, the director of the department of mental health, retardation, and hospitals or designee; the director of the department of administration or designee; the executive director of the RI Council of Community Mental Health Centers or designee; the executive director of the Drug and Alcohol Treatment Association of RI or designee; the director of Right to Recovery, or designee; the chairperson of the Brown University Medical Center for Addiction Studies School or designee; and two (2) members of the general public, preferably consumers, one (1) of whom shall be appointed by the senate majority leader and one (1) of whom shall be appointed by the speaker of the house of representatives.

The commission in its deliberations, shall consider all powers, duties, and responsibilities of state government related to the treatment of substance abuse and any other matters determined to be relevant and material. The commission shall be empowered to issue statements and to recommend action in the application and implementation of policies and procedures pertaining to the provision of substance abuse treatment and prevention services under the aegis of the state of Rhode Island.

The commission shall make its report to the general assembly on or about March 1, 1998. Yet the commission may continue to meet, deliberate, and offer further findings beyond this date if it determines there is need to do so. However, the commission will complete its work by June 30, 1998, unless an extension of its purpose and function is granted and authorized by the general assembly.

All departments and agencies of the state shall furnish such advice and information, documentary and otherwise, to said commission and its agents as is deemed necessary or desirable by the commission to facilitate the purposes of this act.

The speaker of the house is hereby authorized and directed to provide suitable quarters for said commission."

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