Thursday, 12 19, 2013
Allison Gardner Martin
Attorney General Jack Conway, Sen. Katie Stine, and Rep. John Tilley today announced a piece of bipartisan legislation that will be presented in the 2014 regular session of the Kentucky General Assembly to address the increase in heroin abuse and trafficking that is being reported in communities across Kentucky.
"Many areas of the state have seen an increase in heroin use and overdoses. We cannot stand idly by and watch our families be torn apart," General Conway said. "We have worked together to craft this bipartisan bill that helps us get to the root of the problem, which is treating opiate addiction."
The comprehensive legislation that has been drafted over the past several months will address punishment, prevention and treatment.
"Statistic's paint a grim picture," said Sen. Stine, who serves as president pro-tem of the Kentucky Senate. "According to the recent report issued by the Office of Drug Control Policy for the year 2012, there were 1004 overdose deaths in Kentucky. Deaths from heroin overdose increased 650 percent from the previous year, and reports are that 2013 will be far worse than that. We must do everything we can to get the traffickers off the street, get treatment for addicts and educate our people, especially our youth, about the hazards of drug abuse, especially heroin."
The proposed law will increase penalties for high-volume traffickers and allow traffickers to be charged with homicide. Both of these proposed changes to state law would make Kentucky consistent with current federal law. Under state sentencing guidelines, it would require large volume traffickers to serve 50 percent of their sentences. There currently is no distinction between large and small volume traffickers. The bill also decreases the time a defendant must serve before being eligible for parole if he or she cooperates with authorities.
The bill would require the Kentucky Medicaid Program to cover a broad array of substance abuse treatment options for people seeking opiate addiction treatment, and cost savings realized through House Bill 463 – a smart-on-crime measure designed to enhance public safety while reducing recidivism, increasing treatment options and maximizing tax dollars - would be directed to the Kentucky Agency for Substance Abuse Policy (KY-ASAP) to fund treatment and educational programs.
"The battlefield is always changing when it comes to drug abuse, which we have seen in recent years with spikes in meth, synthetic drugs and the abuse of painkillers," said Rep. Tilley, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee. "We in Kentucky came up with solutions in each case that have been hailed as national models, and I am convinced that this legislation will continue that trend. It will do that by doing what we have done in the past: crack down on serious traffickers while increasing treatment options to help addicts escape the cycle. While there is no silver bullet, we feel this is the best approach."
Other provisions in the bill include:
• The coroner or medical examiner must notify the Commonwealth's Attorney of any overdose death caused by the use of a Schedule I controlled substance.
• Doctors are permitted to prescribe Naloxone to first responders and addicts' family members to help prevent overdose deaths.
• Limited immunity from drug paraphernalia and possession charges for people who call 911 to help prevent a drug overdose death.
• Training for peace officers on heroin overdose recognition, interdiction, and treatments.
For a copy of the bill, visit http://goo.gl/nbDCSV