Murray bill allowing NA/AA meetings during a state of emergency signed into law

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STATE HOUSE — Legislation introduced by Sen. Melissa Murray, a Democrat representing District 24 in Woonsocket and North Smithfield, and Rep. Camille Vella-Wilkinson of Warwick to permit Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous to hold meetings during a declared disaster emergency has become law.

Gov. Dan McKee signed the bill on Friday, Aug. 6 during a ceremony at the State House.

The law – 2021-H 5281A2021-S 0988 – provides that mental health and substance use disorder services provided by the organizations will be considered an essential health benefit.

“The services provided by Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are not only essential, they are necessary for the public health,” said Vella-Wilkinson. “During the pandemic, AA meetings were designated as a social gathering rather than an essential service, while liquor stores were considered essential and permitted to remain open. AA is no more a social gathering than rehab, especially when many of the members are court-ordered to attend meetings.”

The law mandates that adequate measures be implemented to provide the services safely within whatever guidelines may be established to address the issues relative to the declared disaster emergency.

“For those in recovery from a substance use disorder, social support is critical,” said Murray. “Better access to these services means better outcomes for patients. The services provided by AA and NA are as essential as any other medical, therapeutic or rehabilitative treatment, and we must ensure that they are allowed to continue during any future states of emergency.”  

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