Attorney General Jack Conway, prosecutors and law enforcement officers today joined together to announce priorities they believe must be included in any heroin legislation considered by the 2015 General Assembly.
“Last year, I presented a bipartisan bill to address the resurgence of heroin that did not pass in the waning hours of the 2014 General Assembly,” Attorney General Conway said. “That cannot and must not happen again. People are dying. It’s time to put people above politics and pass a piece of legislation that addresses this addiction and people peddling this poison.”
Attorney General Conway, prosecutors and law enforcement officers attending today’s press conference are not supporting a specific piece of legislation. Ultimately, they believe any bill presented must address the following issues:
• Higher penalties for high-volume traffickers.
• Larger scale dealers should be forced to serve 50 percent of their sentences before being eligible for parole.
• Law enforcement officers should have access to Naloxone, a drug that is able to reverse a heroin overdose in seconds. First responders should be able to administer it to an overdose victim without fear of civil liability.
• A limited, but workable, Good Samaritan provision is important to saving lives. Currently, there is a fear among drug addicts that calling the police to assist an overdose victim will result in prosecution and incarceration. If a person calls 911 to seek help for an overdose victim, the law should take that into account and provide them with an opportunity to make his or her case in court. This would only apply to users or those facing possession charges – not traffickers.
• Expanded treatment for addicts.
“The heroin epidemic is crippling our criminal justice system, victimizing our communities and killing users at an alarming rate,” said Linda Tally Smith, Boone County Commonwealth’s Attorney and member of the Kentucky Prosecutors Advisory Counsel. “Decreasing supply by increasing penalties for heroin traffickers is an imperative first step in combatting the problem. As such, I appreciate General Conway’s support of efforts to increase penalties for drug traffickers.”
“Heroin is an equal opportunity destroyer of lives,” Franklin County Sheriff Pat Melton said. “It attacks rich and poor, male and female, black and white alike. Heroin has broken a lot of hearts in central Kentucky. We must strengthen our laws to fight this devastating drug.”
Attorney General Conway, prosecutors and law enforcement officers believe legislation must increase treatment beds and access to treatment for those charged with drug crimes.
“We cannot arrest our way out of this epidemic,” Attorney General Conway said. “There aren’t enough jail cells and there aren’t enough courtrooms to fix this problem.”
The resurgence of heroin in Kentucky is an outgrowth of the prescription painkiller epidemic. Heroin and opiate painkillers are an almost identical chemical compound that affects the brain the same way.
“We’ve done a tremendous job fighting the prescription pain pill problem in Kentucky,” Attorney General Conway said. “In 2013, we passed legislation that closed half of the rogue pain clinics in this state. As pain pills became more expensive and harder to get on the streets, we saw an uptick in heroin. Those of us in law enforcement are doing everything we can, but we need the General Assembly to act and expand treatment for addicts who are stuck in a revolving door in Kentucky’s courts and jails.”
In January, Attorney General Conway announced that Judge Philip Shepherd directed $32 million from two settlements with pharmaceutical companies be used to improve public health in Kentucky. The money has been used to expand adolescent treatment, provide scholarships for 800 people to Recovery Kentucky Centers, complete construction of a Recovery Kentucky Center near Ashland, keep open two treatment centers for pregnant women, and provide transitional housing for those completing treatment.