Senate's 2015 heroin bill clears committee heads to full Senate

01/08/2015 07:36 AM

The Kentucky Senate’s bill designed to curb heroin abuse in the state took a first step on Wednesday as Senate Bill 5 passed unanimously out of the Senate Standing Committee on Judiciary Wednesday.

Senate Bill 5, sponsored by Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, addresses treatment and rehabilitation for addicts while punishing dealers with harsher sentences. It also calls for providing medical personnel and first responders with the drug Naloxone, which can immediately reverse the effects of a heroin overdose.

“It is time that we, as members of the General Assembly, step up and provide appropriate treatment options for those who are addicted to heroin and other opiate based drugs,” McDaniel said. “There are two sides who have to participate in this, the users and the dealers — and the dealers do not deserve our sympathy, our compassion or our charity.

Alex Elsworth of Lexington, a recovering heroin addict, told the committee about his frustration in getting effective treatment.

“After consulting with a primary care physician, a psychologist, a psychiatrist and even an addiction specialist, no one could refer me to the help I needed,” told the committee Wednesday. “ In fact, the treatment center that I would up getting clean, I got that reference from a restaurant manager and a three time felon. Now I’m convinced if I had dementia, my primary care physician could do a better job of referring me than a line cook or a felon.”

Jessica Tomlin of Morning View saw her sister, Tabatha, die of an overdose in April, 2013.

“Do I feel that this senate bill, with treatment and jail, could have helped my sister,” asked Tomlin. “Definitely, because you know what my sister learned in jail, she learned where to get more drugs.”

Sen. Ray Jones, D-Pikeville, supported the bill but has concerns about the definition of a drug trafficker, which, under the bill, would be required to serve at least 50 percent of his sentence.

“Heroin trafficking is not just selling it to someone in exchange for money, one heroin addict handing a packet the size of that sweet and low package to another addict in the course of using it is trafficking,” Jones said.

The bill already has one reading and could be passed on the Senate floor as early as Friday.


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