Heroin recovery advocates livid over legislature's inability to pass Senate Bill 5

04/18/2014 12:17 PM

ALEXANDRIA – The failure of the passing of Senate Bill 5 by the General Assembly before the clock ran out is being described by heroin rehabilitation advocates in Northern Kentucky as an epic failure.

During a meeting in Campbell County Thursday night, many who are involved in heroin treatments predicted that a delay in passing the bill will result in more deaths and heartache throughout the commonwealth — and specifically in Northern Kentucky, which has been the most affected area by the deadly drug.

Charlotte Wethington, a recovery advocate at the long-term residential treatement center the Grateful Life Center in Erlanger, knows first hand about the pain of drug addiction. Her son, Chad, died of an overdose 12 years ago.

Wethington sees the failure to pass Senate Bill 5 as tragic.

“I’ve been fighting this battle for well over a decade and it is long overdue, past overdue, that we address the heroin epidemic,” she said.

Wethington initiated “The Matthew Casey Wethington Act for Substance Abuse Intervention”, a law for involuntary treatment. The General Assembly passed that a decade ago and it took effect on July 13, 2004. It allows parents, relatives or friends to petition the court for treatment on behalf of someone with a substance use disorder regardless of age and without criminal charges.

In 2002, she could not authorize treatment for her son because he was over the age of 18.

Dr. Mike Kalfas is a Northern Kentucky physician who treats heroin addicted patients on a daily basis.

“I think the majority of that legislation, if broken up and taken each piece on it’s own merit, the ones that were unpalatable could have been dealt with and the pieces that were beneficial, especially the tougher laws to quit making northern Kentucky a drug supermarket would have been really helpful in our fight against this,” Kalfas said.

One of the provisions that caused a hold-up in negotiations over Senate Bill 5 was one to create a needle exchange program that would allow addicts to bring used needles to health departments and exchange them for new ones.

Kalfas says that could stop what he predicts will be HIV or Hepatitis C epidemics in the near future.

“Everywhere else there’s been an IV drug problem, over time, the drug problem builds, then the Hepatitis C problem builds, and not far behind them is HIV,” said Kalfas.

Wethington and Kalfas were part of a panel which addressed a crowd of about 75 people on Thursday at Campbell County High School as part of a heroin town hall meeting which was sponsored by the Campbell County Drug Free Alliance.


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