heroin

A drug that can reverse the effects of a heroin overdose will soon be available without a prescription in Kentucky.

The state Board of Pharmacy’s emergency regulation went into effect last week to allow pharmacists to dispense naloxone, a drug that’s already used in hospital emergency rooms and by law enforcement agencies.

Van Ingram, head of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, says the hope is to save people who can then be rehabilitated.

“Substance abuse treatment is the end-goal for all individuals who are addicted, but we can’t get them to substance abuse treatment if they aren’t alive.”

Naloxone can be administered by a needle injection, through an auto-injector, and through a intranasal device.

A bill passed this year by state lawmakers allows pharmacists to establish guidelines on how to prescribe the drug.

Heroin Overdose Deaths are Down in Three Kentucky Counties

May 11, 2015

New statistics indicate heroin-related overdose deaths declined in 2014 in three northern Kentucky counties hard hit by the drug epidemic.

Citing the latest statistics from the Kentucky Medical Examiner's office, The Kentucky Enquirer reports that Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties had a combined 64 heroin-related overdose deaths in 2014, down from 72 in 2013.

Leaders of the Northern Kentucky Heroin Impact Response Task Force say the drop shows community efforts are beginning to yield results.

Dr. Tracey Corey, Kentucky's chief medical examiner, released to The Enquirer the latest count of overdose deaths statewide that included heroin in the bloodstream. Her analyst noted that the medical examiner does not get all heroin-related overdose deaths cases, however.

The medical examiner had 233 such deaths in 2014, up from 230 in 2013.

The Barren River District Health Department in Bowling Green estimates they're a little over a month away from setting up their local needle exchange program for intravenous drug users. One of the key provisions in the high profile heroin bill passed by the General Assembly during their session earlier this year allowed local municipalities the option of setting up the exchanges.

Disease intervention specialist Chip Krause estimates their "Harm Reduction and Syringe Access Program" will be operational by May 1st.

The program is designed to prevent the spread of diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C from spreading among drug users who use dirty needles. Krause says a lot of people in the community have the wrong idea about it, thinking the health department is just helping addicts with their habits, but that's not the case, "A lot of people are pretty upset that these kinds of things do happen," he said, "but overall it's a good thing for the community because it prevents disease from spreading to some of the population that could be at risk."

Krause says even with a large college like WKU in town, they don't really see much heroin use but he says it is in the area and has to be dealt with. "You hate to say it's a big problem, but any time you have drug use with the possibility of spread of disease it is a problem and something we need to address."

A drug roundup in Pulaski County is targeting lower-level dealers ahead of future efforts against higher-level offenders.

Forty-seven drug-related indictments with nearly 70 felony charges have been handed down this week by a local grand jury. Pulaski County Sheriff’s Deputy Karl Clinard says this week’s efforts by federal, state, county, and city law enforcement groups have been aimed at those selling prescription pills and methamphetamine, with a growing number of heroin dealers also targeted.

“The commonwealth of Kentucky is suffering a considerable amount of impact from heroin, and we’re trying to work on that. That’s a higher-level drug that we’re trying to incorporate into our round ups.”

Clinard says that information gained from this week’s arrests will be used to target higher-level drug traffickers in the Pulaski County region.

This week's roundup was a combined effort of the Pulaski County Sheriff's Office, the Lake Cumberland Area Task Force, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Kentucky State Police, Kentucky State Police Drug Enforcement/Special Investigations East, Kentucky Office of the Attorney General,  Somerset Police Department,  Burnside Police Department,  Science Hill Police Department, Ferguson Police Department and Eubank Police Department.

Indiana health officials say more than 100 people have tested positive for HIV in an outbreak of the virus among intravenous drug users in southeastern Indiana.

The state’s Joint Information Center said Friday that as of Thursday there had been 95 confirmed HIV cases and 11 preliminary positive cases tied to the outbreak.

All of the HIV cases have been linked to needle-sharing among intravenous drug users.

Scott County — about 30 miles north of Louisville, Kentucky — is the epicenter of Indiana’s largest-ever HIV outbreak.

Gov. Mike Pence declared a public health emergency in the county on March 26 that allowed the creation of a limited needle-exchange program that aims to stem the spread of the virus.

The nation's drug czar was in Kentucky Thursday to tout needle-exchange programs as a way to reduce the spread of disease and to steer heroin users into treatment.

Michael Botticelli, the director of National Drug Control Policy, visited northern Kentucky, which has been hard hit by heroin abuse addiction. He was invited to Kentucky by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

During his speech, Botticelli said needle-exchange programs are a way to reduce the spread of hepatitis and HIV by discouraging use of dirty needles by multiple people.

He said the programs reduce the risk that law enforcement officers will be infected by accidental needle sticks. Kentucky lawmakers last month passed sweeping anti-heroin legislation.

One component allows local governments to set up needle-exchange programs where addicts can swap dirty needles for clean ones.

On the first day of its new HIV clinic, the Community Outreach Center in Austin, Ind., is quiet.

Rows of chairs line the lobby. Health care providers walk in and out of  doors that lead to private testing areas, treatment resources and other services. The makeshift center is dubbed a One- Stop Shop, sanctioned and overseen by the Indiana State Department of Health.

State and local health officials have begun a needle-exchange program in a southern Indiana county where an HIV outbreak among intravenous drug users has grown to nearly 90 cases.

Scott County’s needle-exchange program started Saturday morning under an emergency executive order signed last week by Gov. Mike Pence.

That 30-day order temporarily suspended Indiana’s ban on such programs, but only for the southern Indiana county about 30 miles north of Louisville.

The program is open only to Scott County residents through the Community Outreach Center in the city of Austin that’s at the epicenter of the epidemic. That region now has  84 confirmed HIV cases and five preliminary positive cases.

Each participant will initially receive enough needles for one week to help combat needle-sharing that’s caused the epidemic.

Taxpayers will spend money to keep heroin dealers in prison longer and to give addicts a steady supply of clean needles under a bill that has passed the state legislature designed to curb Kentucky's alarming increase of overdose deaths.

The bill passed late Tuesday and is the result of more three years of negotiations between Democrats and Republicans who had deep philosophical differences about how to treat addicts and the criminal penalties that should be imposed on them and their dealers.

Lawmakers agreed to let local governments set up needle-exchange programs where addicts can swap dirty needles for clean ones in an effort to prevent disease and death. And it toughens penalties for some heroin dealers, requiring them to serve at least 50 percent of their sentence.

Gov. Steve Beshear is expected to sign the bill.

Gage Skidmore, Flickr Creative Commons

On the last day of the Kentucky General Assembly’s 2015 session, Attorney General Jack Conway called on legislators to pass a bill to deal with the state’s growing heroin problem.

“I hope here on the final day of the legislative session that the legislature gets its act together,” Conway said during a news conference.

So far, lawmakers have been squabbling over differing versions of the bill. A heroin bill died in the final minutes of last year’s session.

Conway, a Democrat who is also running for governor, said the bill should include tougher penalties for major heroin traffickers and more funding for treatment. He also called for a bill that would make an overdose-reversing drug called naloxone more available. His stance is the same as House Democrats.

“Four simple provisions that are relatively non-controversial that need to be passed, that need to be passed by midnight tonight because people are dying, because law enforcement officials are having trouble dealing with the problem and prosecutors need help in trying to rid our streets of this scourge,” Conway said.

A committee headed by Conway and First Lady Jane Beshear has distributed 2,000 naloxone kits to the University of Kentucky, University of Louisville and St. Elizabeth Hospital in Northern Kentucky.

The total cost for the kits is over $100,000. The kits were funded as part of a $32 million settlement between the state and two pharmaceutical companies. The settlement money has also gone to fund nonprofit treatment programs across the state and provide users with “scholarships” to treatment programs.

LRC Public Information

With two working days to go, Kentucky lawmakers still haven’t nailed down legislation to address the state’s growing heroin problem and it’s ailing teachers pension system.

On Friday, legislators from both chambers met for hours, trying to craft compromises on the bills.

A solution is starting to take shape to help shore up the teachers pension system, but the House and Senate remain divided on sentencing guidelines in the heroin bill.

Lawmakers have until 11:59 p.m. Tuesday to pass laws.

Heroin

Representatives and senators were still at odds Friday afternoon over needle exchanges, sentencing guidelines for heroin traffickers, and whether to include a “good Samaritan” clause that would provide immunity to those who report heroin overdoses.

Senate President Robert Stivers repeatedly suggested that the committee stop arguing and produce a bill that only includes points that lawmakers agree on: making overdose-reversing drug naloxone more available and increasing funding for treatment programs.

Kentucky LRC

Kentucky lawmakers say they’ve come a long way in coming up with a legislative solution to the state’s heroin epidemic, but no consensus has emerged on the biggest sticking point—how to punish heroin traffickers.

The House wants to keep the state’s current law that gives low-level heroin traffickers lighter prison sentences. The Senate wants strict sentencing across the board.

Sen. Chris McDaniel, a Taylor Mill Republican and candidate for lieutenant governor, said strict sentencing guidelines would still allow prosecutors to use discretion and provide reduced charges for “peddlers.”

“We believe that we need to trust our prosecutors locally to make these decisions and we trust our prosecutors,” he said.

On Thursday, a conference committee made up of six representatives and six senators attempted to hammer out final details of the bill. To get heroin legislation passed in this session, both the state House and Senate would have to vote on a final version of the bill on Monday or Tuesday of next week.

Rep. John Tilley, a Hopkinsville Democrat and author of the House version of the bill, said lawmakers need to “legislate to the bad” prosecutors—to prevent low-level traffickers and addicts from entering the prison system.

Tilley said current law already has tough penalties for traffickers, and he pointed out that low-level drug dealers would receive a Class C felony if they received a second trafficking offense.

Senators also took issue with a House proposal to add $10 million dollars for drug treatment to the bill.

Senate President Robert Stivers, a Manchester Republican, said House lawmakers need to identify the source for the additional funding.

“I think we all have to take a realistic look: where are those monies coming from,” Stivers asked.

The provision for additional money had been proposed by Rep. Sannie Overly, a Paris Democrat and candidate for lieutenant governor.

Kevin Willis

The Kentucky General Assembly adjourned late Wednesday night for a week and a half while Gov. Steve Beshear considers vetoes—and no bill addressing the state’s rising heroin problems had been passed.

Lawmakers will have two days to pass a final bill: March 23 and 24.

Both chambers have selected members for a conference committee, which will now try to hammer out the final details of a compromise.

Senate President Robert Stivers remains confident that a heroin bill will be finalized over the course of the break.

“I think the discussions when we come back everything would be resolved by that time, because when we get back on the 23rd and 24th I think the die will be cast and hopefully everything will be prepared,” Stivers said.

The starting point of discussion will be a bill sponosored Rep. John Tilley, a Hopkinsville Democrat, who has worked with House and Senate leader to come up with a compromise piece of legislation.

“It represents some advancement in the progress that we’ve had in meeting with our Senate counterparts over the last several weeks,” Tilley said during a House Floor speech on Wednesday.

The bill looks a lot like a version the House passed last month: it would punish heroin traffickers with increasing penalties depending on how much of the drug they have, and it would allow local health districts to set up needle exchanges.

Kevin Willis

Several Kentucky legislators on Friday spoke against a provision in the House’s heroin bill that would allow local health districts to start needle exchanges—but the chamber unanimously passed the bill.

“Maybe giving free needles for people to use illicit drugs sends an equally bad impression to our youth,” said Rep. Stan Lee, a Republican from Lexington.

Rep. Addia Wuchner, a Republican from Florence, proposed removing the needle exchange provision so it could be vetted by committee.

But the sponsor of the bill, Rep. John Tilley, a Democrat from Hopkinsville, said needle exchanges are often the first point of contact between addicts and those who can help them recover.

The needle exchange provision was ultimately included in the bill.

The Kentucky House of Representatives now has its own version of a bill that seeks to combat the state’s heroin epidemic.

There are a few key distinctions between the House proposal revealed Monday and the bill that passed the Kentucky Senate earlier this year, including a provision that would allow local health districts to set up needle exchange programs. Needle exchanges have been a major hang-up for Senate Republicans in the past.

Rep. John Tilley, a Democrat from Hopkinsville, said a needle exchange program can be the first point of contact between addicts and people who can help.

“We are at wit’s end in the state, and for the country for that matter, to find things that will actually work, that will actually reduce drug-use that actually will get addicts into treatment, will break the cycle of addiction,” Tilley said.

Pages