Andy Beshear releases plan to combat drug abuse in Kentucky
10/05/2015 09:33 PM
Democratic candidate for attorney general Andy Beshear is zeroing in on drug policy with a three step plan to level off drug addiction in the commonwealth.
Beshear’s plan considers a three-pronged approach at fighting drug abuse in the state: enforcement, treatment and education.
As part one of his plan, Beshear says that the General Assembly needs to revise drug laws so law enforcement can target traffickers of heroin, meth and “other dangerous drugs.”
In that vein the state should further target heroin abuse, Beshear says, adding that “the General Assembly made some progress by focusing on heroin, but it was not nearly enough.”
“First, we must revise our penalties so that anyone who sells heroin – no matter the amount – is held accountable,” the plan says. “Second, we must create multi-state cooperation, especially with Ohio, that allows law enforcement to pursue dealers across state lines.
“Finally, we need a further coordinated statewide effort involving law enforcement, first responders and medical personnel, legislators, and prosecutors that targets the movement of heroin in our state and sends a clear message that we will not allow this dangerous drug to continue devastating our communities.”
In the anti-heroin legislation which passed in March, lawmakers retained a 2-gram threshold for class D felony trafficking for offenders caught with heroin, but found agreement allowing prosecutors to seek to extend parole eligibility to 50 percent rather than 15 percent if authorities find two or more indicators of a more sophisticated drug operation, such as scales, cash, baggies and weapons. Convicted low-level dealers who can prove they sold heroin to feed their addictions may be discharged into treatment.
Currently, heroin dealers caught selling between 2 and 100 grams of heroin can be charged with class C felonies, and those trafficking more than 100 grams of the drug may be charged with class B felonies.
The state’s anti-heroin bill also includes needle-exchange programs, no-charge good Samaritan protections for those who report overdoses, expanded access to the overdose-reversing drug naloxone, and $10 million in the current fiscal year and $24 million annually thereafter to fund various treatment options.
The legislation was shepherded through the legislative session in large part by House Judiciary Chair Rep. John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville, and Senate Judiciary Chair Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, who is the Republican nominee for attorney general.
“As Attorney General, I will focus every day on combating the spread of heroin, methamphetamines, and synthetic drugs, as well as continuing to fight the illegal trade in prescription drugs,” Beshear said in a press release. “I have met with far too many parents and grandparents who have lost loved ones to an overdose.
“Each of these preventable deaths is a tragedy that doesn’t just scar our families, but also hurts our communities,” Beshear continued in the release. “Under my plan, we will ensure that drug dealers selling this ‘death’ are held accountable for the devastation they cause, while also concentrating on treatment and education to save the lives of our fellow Kentuckians.”
Under the enforcement aspect of his plan, Beshear also calls on stricter laws on the sale and possession of synthetic drugs such as Flakka or K2.
Read Beshear’s full plan here.
Calling for more funding, priority treatment for pregnant addicts and additional treatment for inmates, Beshear says that enforcement alone won’t cure the uptick in heroin abuse in Kentucky.
“Funding is projected to rise to $22 million each year starting next July, and we must continue to increase funding as needed so we are providing quality and varied treatment options that reaches the Kentuckians that need them,” Beshear’s plan says. “Until we help each and every addict recover, our drug crisis will not be over.”
Additionally, Beshear, the son of Gov. Steve Beshear, will seek to “work together” with non-profits “to reach addicts, nurture them through treatment, and guide them as they rebuild their lives.”
The easiest way for the state to deal with drug abuse is for individuals to never begin taking drugs, so Beshear plans on increasing education initiatives for both children and adults on the dangers of taking heroin and other opiates.
“If we can effectively reach Kentuckians both young and old who are most at risk of addiction, we can make major gains toward ending the drug epidemic while also freeing up treatment resources for those who need it most,” the plan says.
To reach more Kentuckians, Beshear calls on the implementation of a drug addiction task force to “effectively drive home the message that drugs kill.”
Beshear’s drug abuse plan comes as the third of three key tenants of his campaign for attorney general. Beshear has also released plans to crack down on child abuse and senior scams and abuse , if elected.
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