PORTSMOUTH, R.I. — The Rhode Island Senate recently passed legislation introduced by Sen. James A. Seveney (D-Dist. 11, Portsmouth, Bristol, and Tiverton) that would change the way the state approves and funds drug awareness programs.
The bill (2018-S 2025Aaa) would amend the Rhode Island Student Assistance High School, Junior High, Middle School Act to regulate and update the administration of the programs.
“Currently, there is little to no state money that’s allocated to substance abuse prevention in Rhode Island outside of the annual federal SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) grant,” said Senator Seveney. “With passage of this bill, we’ll fix the flaws in the existing law and ensure that the programs are administered effectively.”
The legislation would place approval of drug awareness programs for minors charged with civil marijuana offenses in the discretion of the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH). It would also redirect funds from certain civil fines imposed to the general revenue fund to be expended by BHDDH to fund substance abuse and student assistance programs for youth.
“There’s supposed to be a fee on every moving violation that the Traffic Tribunal processes to go partly into a restricted receipt account and partly into the general fund to be managed by BHDDH,” said Senator Seveney. “That money could amount to something approaching $1 million. Currently, we do not collect it. With passage of this legislation, we will. It also assesses 50 percent of all misdemeanor marijuana fines that the Traffic Tribunal processes and puts it into the same fund.”
The act would also mandate that BHDDH establish funding criteria for distribution of funds and require that municipalities that receive the funds file annual reports verifying that the funds are being used for substance abuse prevention programs. It would also make high schools eligible for the program; currently the law mentions only junior high and middle schools.
The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration, where similar legislation (2018-H 7221) has been introduced by House Majority Whip John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth).