Friday, February 13, 2015

House anti-heroin bill heading to Senate

A bill that would use both treatment and incarceration to reduce the devastating effects of the heroin trade in Kentucky was supported today by Rep. Lynn Bechler (R-Marion) and passed the House by a vote of 98-0. The bill now goes to the Senate.

House Bill 213, sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chair John Tilley (D-Hopkinsville) and Rep. Joni Jenkins (D-Shively), includes several provisions to attack the problem including:
  • Tiered penalties for traffickers, with the greatest prison time for those felons who sell over a kilo of the drug.
  • A “good Samaritan” provision that gives criminal immunity from prosecution for possession of substances or paraphernalia to both those who call for emergency help in overdose situations and for the person who suffered the overdose.
  • Prescriptive authority for pharmacists to provide the rescue drug naloxone where needed.
  • Immunity for paramedics and other first responders who carry and administer naloxone.
  • Redirects a portion of criminal justice reform savings for treatment programs, community mental health programs and expedited prosecutions.
  • Allows local governments to set up a needle exchange program to stave off Hepatitis C and HIV infection from shared needles.
The bill was also changed by an amendment offered by Rep. Tom Riner (D-Louisville) approved 95-0, that would allow those charged with nonviolent drug felonies who are eligible for diversion to use faith-based residential treatment to meet their diversion or deferred prosecution requirement.

A proposed amendment sponsored by Rep. Addia Wuchner (R-Florence) asked that the needle exchange proposal in the bill be replaced with a 2015 legislative study of hypodermic needle and syringe drug outreach programs. “It only postpones this portion of the bill,” said Wuchner.

Tilley, who said cases of Hepatitis C related to opioid dependence have increased nearly 1,600 percent, argued against the amendment. He said needle exchange programs in other states “have proven time and again to save lives.”

The amendment was voted down 45-53.

The Senate has also taken up an anti-heroin measure this year. The chamber approved Senate Bill 5 on Jan. 8 and sent the measure to the House for consideration.

Recent news reports indicate that there were nearly 200 deaths caused by heroin overdose in the Commonwealth in the first nine months of 2014.

Want to contact your lawmakers on this issue? Simply click on the links below: