Republican lawmakers have proposed a bill that would allow some people who overdose on heroin or witness an overdose to avoid charges if they immediately seek help from public safety officials.
Republican state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who is sponsoring the bill, said during a press conference in Covington on Friday that it is an attempt to combat the state's growing heroin addiction problem.
Heroin overdose deaths now account for 32 percent of the state's drug overdose deaths, up from 20 percent in 2012. Northern Kentucky has seen largest increase in overdose heroin deaths.
The bill would also stiffen penalties for heroin traffickers and spend more money on drug treatment programs. A similar bill failed to pass earlier this year despite broad support from both political parties.
Kentucky state Senate Republicans leaders say heroin legislation will rank among their top legislative priorities in 2015.
CN2 Pure Politics reports that GOP Senator Chris McDaniel will be the lead sponsor of the bill, which he says will target drug traffickers while also offering more treatment options to addicts.
Anti-heroin legislation introduced by a Republican lawmaker passed the Senate during this year’s General Assembly, but wasn’t passed by the Democratic-led House. Several lawmakers were concerned about the legality of a provision in the bill that would have charged dealers with murder if someone they sold to overdosed.
Heroin has been taking an increasing toll on the Bluegrass State, with the northern Kentucky region especially hard hit. A recent report from the state’s Office of Drug Control Policy shows that while the number of total overdoses remained steady in 2013, deaths caused by heroin increased by more than 12 percent.
Kentucky's increasing heroin problem has taken center stage as an issue in political advertising in the state's Senate race.
Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes' campaign is running radio ads across the state criticizing Republican Mitch McConnell for not taking a stance on a state bill that would've increased penalties for heroin traffickers. The ad says McConnell thinks solutions only come from Washington.
The McConnell campaign called the ad misleading. They noted McConnell was named Federal Legislator of the Year by the Kentucky Narcotics Officers' Association and said McConnell was able to expand a fedral anti-drug trafficking program into Jefferson and Hardin Counties. The program pays officers overtime to investigate drug traffickers.
Heroin overdose deaths in Kentucky increased to 230 in 2013 from 22 in 2011, a 945% increase in just two years.
A state Senator and Representative from Hopkinsville are among a small group of lawmakers working to craft new legislation aimed at curbing the state’s rising problem with heroin.
Senate Judiciary Chair Whitney Westerfield and House Judiciary Chair John Tilley are helping to create a bill they hope can pass the 2015 General Assembly. A bill introduced in this year’s session failed because of concerns over a part of the measure that would have allowed prosecutors to charge heroin traffickers with homicide if someone they sold to died from an overdose.
Speaking to CN2’s Pure Politics, Senator Westerfield said a bipartisan group from both the House and Senate believes something needs to be done to strengthen the state’s heroin laws. The Christian County Republican says he wants to see a bill that cracks down on dealers while also increasing treatment options for addicts.
A recent report from Kentucky’s Office of Drug Control Policy showed deaths caused by heroin increased by more than 12 percent in 2013.
A nasal spray developed a Kentucky researcher is designed to reduce the number of heroin related overdoses. The invention by University of Kentucky pharmacy professor Daniel Wermeling has been fast-tracked by the Food and Drug Administration and is in its final round of clinical trials.
Wermeling’s goal was to create an easier way to administer the drug Naloxone, which can reverse potentially fatal heroin overdoses. He has been working on the nasal spray since 2009, with support from a $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, with additional funding from the Kentucky Science and Technology Corp.
If the F.D.A gives final approval to the product, it could be available by prescription as early as next year.
Wermeling believes the nasal spray will be a much easier way to treat patients, as opposed to injecting them with the drug.
The number of overdose deaths related to heroin continues to climb in Kentucky.
A new report from the state’s Office of Drug Control Policy shows that while the number of total overdoses remained steady in 2013, deaths caused by heroin increased by more than 12 percent.
In 2012, 19.6 percent of drug related deaths recorded by the state were due to heroin. That number increased to 31.9 percent in 2013.
Overall, the number of drug deaths in Kentucky leveled off last year, increasing by only three from 2012.
Van Ingram, the Executive Director of Kentucky’s Office of Drug Control Policy, said one way to combat the rising number of heroin deaths would be to increase the availability of narcan, a drug used to halt the effects of opioid overdose. Narcan is currently found in emergency rooms and carried by paramedics.
“We’d like to see it in the hands of police officers, we’d like to see it in the hands of families of people who are at risk, and just as widespread as we can make it, because we can’t get people into treatment and we can’t help them turn their lives around once they’re lost,” Ingram told WKU Public Radio.
A renewed effort to pass legislation to combat Kentucky’s heroin epidemic is gaining traction in the state legislature.
The chairs of the House and Senate Judiciary committees are in talks to revive the bill, championed by outgoing Republican Sen. Katie Stine, whose Northern Kentucky district has been hit especially hard by heroin abuse.
Stine’s bill died in the final moments of the 2014 session over constitutional concerns about its homicide provision, which would have charged dealers for murder in the event of an overdose, and GOP dissension over the bill’s needle exchange program.
“We are discussing ways to curb the addiction, get it off our streets; to deal more harshly with those whom are dealing in the misery; and to save lives, ultimately,” said Rep. John Tilley, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. “And that’s what we as public servants need to be doing.”
Tilley says all options -- including the homicide provision -- are still on the table, and that several bills will likely take shape soon.
Gov. Steve Beshear remains undecided on whether he’ll call a special legislative session to revisit the issue.
A bill that would raise penalties for heroin traffickers and expand addiction treatment is on shaky ground in the Kentucky General Assembly.
The proposed legislation barely passed a House committee due to concerns over language that would charge drug dealers with homicide in overdose deaths. House State Government Committee chair Brent Yonts says there are “major problems” with the constitutionality of charging dealers for the deaths of people they’re never met.
“One who sells heroin foresees that it’s bad and will kill, and they’re potentially liable for that death even though they may be three people distant from the one who actually gave it or sold it to the one who died,” said Yonts.
Yonts says without changes, he doesn’t think the bill will pass. A bill last year was killed over similar concerns.
A bill that would raise penalties on heroin traffickers and provide new treatment options for opiate addicts narrowly cleared a Kentucky House committee Wednesday.
The House Judiciary Committee approved Senate Bill 5 with 12 yes votes, and 8 members abstaining due to concerns over the measure’s constitutionality regarding charging drug traffickers with homicides for overdose deaths and the bill’s emphasis on prosecution.
Louisville resident Melissa Halfhill testified before the committee that the homicide provision would have allowed authorities to charge the dealer who she says gave her daughter, Katie, a fatal dose of heroin.
“I talk to the homicide detective about pressing charges. He said the laws are in effect, there’s nothing we can do unless we see him actually sell the heroin to someone. So in essence, there’s was nothing they could do," Halfhill told lawmakers.
The Speaker of the Kentucky House is signaling that a bill designed to fight heroin stands a good chance of passing his chamber this year.
Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo was quoted by the Courier-Journal as saying the odds of the bill passing the House are “pretty good”, given that lawmakers have shown a bipartisan ability to back legislation battling illegal drugs. A bill sponsored by Senate Republican Katie Stine seeks to increase the punishment of those convicted of selling high-volumes of drugs while increasing access to substance abuse treatment centers for addicts.
Stine’s bill passed the full Senate on Thursday and is now being considered by the House.
The northern Kentucky lawmaker says her part of the state has seen its treatment centers and law enforcement agencies swamped by a major surge in heroin abuse.
The Courier-Journal reports defense attorneys are objecting to a part of the bill that would help prosecutors convict some drug dealers of homicide when the sale of illegal drugs results in overdose deaths.