Lawmakers agree on need for heroin legislation, but provisions still up in the air

09/10/2014 08:30 AM

House Judiciary Chair John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville, is one of four lawmakers quietly working to piece together a bill dealing with the increase of heroin use in the state.

Where last year’s bill failed to make it out of the legislature lawmakers on the group say that all options are on the table including increased punishments for traffickers of heroin.

However, Tilley said tougher penalties for traffickers don’t really work.

“We have to find a way to distinguish those who are peddling to support their own habits…to those who would peddle this kind of misery for profit,” Tilley said. “Sadly enough the research indicates unless you cut the head off a big distributor you have very little effect taking a trafficker off the street.”

Tilley has advocated for a needle exchange provision within the bill, but the idea has been met with skepticism from other lawmakers. Once the idea is met without preconceived ideas, Tilley said, the benefits are clear.

“It clearly saves lives. It clearly saves the lives of law enforcement. It prevents the spread of infectious diseases,” Tilley said. “It also will keep dirty needles off the playgrounds and school yards.” (5:09)

“It’s often the first time that we have a chance at intervention with a drug user…it leads to treatment. And studies indicate it does not increase or lead to drug abuse.”

While the bill is still in the works, Tilley said, he wants the option of needle exchanges there for lawmakers who have asked for the provision, and a chance to show others the facts of the merit.

The legislation should also revolve around treatment Tilley said. Lawmakers have heard about options like Vivitrol to get addicts off of heroin. The program, which has been offered in other states, would be expensive, but Tilley said it’s a “pay me now or pay me later,” scenario.

“When you’re talking about a lifetime in the criminal justice system of somebody who cannot break the cycle of addiction, that’s a lot more expensive,” Tilley said. (8:12)


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