Kentucky Senate passes bill to treat heroin addicts, punish deal - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Kentucky Senate passes bill to treat heroin addicts, punish dealers

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Kentucky's heroin-related drug overdoses soared from 22 in 2011 to 170 through the first nine months of last year. Kentucky's heroin-related drug overdoses soared from 22 in 2011 to 170 through the first nine months of last year.
Eric Specht Eric Specht
Eric Specht's son Nicholas Eric Specht's son Nicholas

FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) - Kentucky's Senate passed legislation Thursday that included enhanced treatment for heroin addicts and greater punishment for dealers.

Despite concerns earlier in the day about the bill's constitutionality, the Senate voted 36-0 to approve it, with Sen. Perry Clark, D-Louisville, voting pass.

"The bill targets two different groups -- the trafficker who needs to be run out of Kentucky, and the addict who has broken the law but who has created their own personal prison of addiction," said Sen. Katie Stine, R-Southgate, the bill's sponsor.

Stine said she added more education and treatment provisions to previous legislation that focused on punishment but failed to gain enough support in the House. Attorney General Jack Conway and House Judiciary Chairman John Tilley, both Democrats, now support the measure.

It would provide additional treatment beds for heroin addicts and create longer prison sentences for drug dealers.

Kentucky's heroin-related drug overdoses soared from 22 in 2011 to 170 through the first nine months of last year, Gov. Steve Beshear said in his State of the Commonwealth address.

The problem is statewide but is worst in Northern Kentucky, the bill's supporters said.

Eric and Holly Specht, the parents of a man who died after a heroin overdose five months ago, told a Senate committee earlier Thursday that the bill could've saved their son.

"I do feel very strongly about it from this perspective – that if (our son) had access to long-term treatment, we wouldn't be here (testifying)," Eric Specht said.

Specht cried as he told the committee about finding his 30-year-old son Nicholas after the overdose. Specht said if he had naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of heroin, he could've kept his son alive. The bill would make naloxone more widely available.

Some people, including two Democrats who spoke during the committee hearing, praised the treatment provisions but said parts of the bill weren't constitutional.

The measure would lengthen prison sentences for traffickers on the legal justification that a death or overdose is a foreseeable result of using a drug such as heroin.

But overdoses happen as a result of the addict taking a cocktail of drugs, and a trafficker couldn't foresee death would result from providing heroin if he or she didn't know the victim had taken other drugs, said Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, and others.

"There should be a foreseeable outcome that, if you're dealing heroin, the outcome will be death," countered Wayne Turner, the police chief of Bellevue, in Northern Kentucky.

Attorney General Conway believed the bill to be constitutional, a representative from his office said.

Stine said she expected House members to make changes once they start work on the bill.

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