Thursday, March 12, 2015

House adds anti-heroin provisions to bill

FRANKFORT— Sweeping changes to the treatment and prosecution of those involved in Kentucky’s heroin trade were unanimously approved by the House tonight and returned to the Senate for consideration.

The Senate, which passed its own anti-heroin measure in January, swiftly voted against concurring with the House proposal, setting the stage for continued efforts to pass a bill that both chambers can agree on during the final days of the 2015 legislative session.

The House proposal, attached tonight to Senate Bill 192, includes essentially all of House Bill 213, sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville. That bill, which passed the House 98-0 last month, contains substance abuse treatment options for addicts, tiered penalties for traffickers, “good Samaritan” immunity for those who call for emergency help in case of an overdose, better access to the rescue drug naloxone, and the option for local needle exchange programs authorized at the local government level, among other provisions.

Additionally, a second amendment was attached to the bill that would appropriate $10 million in state funds for substance abuse treatment and drug-related prosecution. The amendment, sponsored by House Majority Caucus Chair Sannie Overly, D-Paris, was added to the bill by voice vote.

The original provisions in SB 192, sponsored by Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, were removed by the House. Those provisions dealt with health care service contracts for inmates.

Tilley said SB 192, as amended by the House, represents “the most comprehensive, common sense, evidence-based, data-driven approach to what is a public health epidemic.” He said the funding component found in Overly’s funding amendment would allow the drug treatment and other anti-heroin provisions added to SB 192 by the House to be funded sooner rather than later.

Overly said funding was proposed in HB 213 for seven different drug treatment and related services beginning in the next state budget cycle. “What (this amendment) would do would be to provide immediate funds beginning in fiscal year 2016 for treatment,” said Overly.

Recent news reports indicate that there were nearly 200 deaths caused by heroin overdose in the Commonwealth in the first nine months of 2014.