Sen. Katie Stine says treatment, education and tougher penalties needed to fight heroin

07/12/2013 12:05 PM

Sen. Katie Stine, the Republican Senate President Pro Tem, said she will again push for legislation that will allow prosecutors to charge heroin dealers for murder if they sold the drug to someone who overdosed.

But Stine said tougher penalties, which she said should be a deterant, are only part of the strategy to combat the scourge. Mental health funding, which has been cut 47 percent in Kentucky since 2009, is needed to treat addicts and education efforts must be stepped up, she said.

Through May, 27 people died of heroin overdoses in Lexington, compared to 22 in all of last year. And in Boone County, heroin-related arrests have doubled from last year to 66.

Stine said the scourge of heroin is having “a devastating effect on every part of life in Northern Kentucky.”

“You used to think ‘oh, the heroin addicted that would be someone in some back alley, someone I don’t know,’” Stine said. “Now it is your next door neighbor, it is your kid, its your next door neighbor’s kid.”

Stine sponsored a bill earlier this year that would have increased the penalties for dealing heroin.

Specifically, if a dealer sold the drug to someone who overdosed, the dealer could be charged with homicide. And if aggravated circumstances were applied, that could make that person eligible for the death penalty, if found guilty.

Justice Cabinet Secretary J. Michael Brown recently told Pure Politics a prosecutor could possibly convict someone of the death penalty under the current law for selling the drug to someone who then overdosed. But Stine believes it would be difficult and says her bill encourages the punishment by making the conviction easier.

“It is very similar to if you rob a bank and you’ve got a gun and you hold it up and the person you’re holding up has a heart attack. You never shot them, but they had a heart attack and died,” Stine explained (at 4:55). “You are responsible for that death because your actions caused the death. Same deal.”

Stine says the keys to combating heroin addiction in the state are education, treatment and interdiction which she believes her bill will achieve.

When it come to treatment, Kentucky has had to cut back in areas like mental health funding. And Stine says she does believe it has an adverse effect on treatment but that state funded treatment facilities also need to follow the model set by other effective treatment facilities in the state.

“I think the state is always going to have a role to play here in being able to be helpful. Even through the Medicaid program I think there are opportunities for us to be able to utilize that,” Stine said (at 9:00). “But again, if we are paying for something then we have an obligation to oversee it and make sure it is being done correctly.”

About Pure Politics

Pure Politics airs Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. ET and again at 11:30 p.m. ET in all of cn|2's Kentucky markets. The program features political analysis and news, as well as interviews with officials, candidates, policy makers and political observers.

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