Heroin bill's failure leads to disappointment

By: Tim Johnston Email
By: Tim Johnston Email

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Since the start of this year heroin deaths in Kentucky have been adding up. At midnight Wednesday morning, one death came at the hands of lawmakers that some say could've changed all of that.

"Our legislature had a chance to do something and they dropped the ball," reacted Ray Larson, Commonwealth Attorney for Fayette County.

Senate Bill 5, or simply the "Heroin Bill," is on many lips after the House of Representatives failed to vote the measure through at the end of the 2014 General Assembly.

"It's especially exasperating because they sat on that bill for three months. Realize, Tim, we passed this bill because we knew what a priority this is," explained Senator Katie Stine (R).

Stine co-authored the bill that addressed the epidemic in three parts: education, treatment, and law enforcement.

"I'm very disappointed that they didn't do something on an issue that is as important as this," said Larson, who continued to say the battle against the drug is growing in Lexington. The reason, he said, is because heroin is a cheaper substitute for many that abused prescription pills.

Larson didn't hold back on his feelings of what should've been done with the heroin bill. While it failed to pass, he said life will continue; it just won't be where it should've been.

"It would've increased the penalties for dealers that sell a significant amount and that would've been helpful, but here is where we are."

Senator Stine expressed her concern after learning that there were 24 heroin-related deaths in Kenton County since the Senate approved the bill till it died on the House floor.

"If this were some sort of a virus, we'd be calling federal and international infectious disease experts in. If this were a tornado, we'd be demanding stronger laws for construction and better prediction tools. Yet, here, we have people dying of overdoses and it's not even being reported!" she said.

The round of reaction continued to the Attorney General's office, where Jack Conway's staff said he called the House late Tuesday night to urge for the passing of the bill. He released this statement:

"...I am disappointed that Kentucky lawmakers did not pass the bipartisan heroin legislation that I helped craft with Sen. Katie Stine and Rep. John Tilley. We must act to confront the reality of a growing heroin epidemic in our state. Lives are at stake, and this legislation would have given law enforcement and prosecutors the tools they need to help address this issue. We must refocus our efforts to pass this legislation and expand treatment for opiate addiction to address the abuse of prescription painkillers and heroin."

Now some legislative leaders are wondering if Governor Steve Beshear may call for a special session to get the bill through. The Governor said Wednesday that it was too soon to determine if that will be needed.

Larson didn't like that such a bill would need a special session, saying it should've been passed sooner. "Come on! Do your job while you're there for crying out loud."

Until the legislature decides to move forward in this battle, Larson said the fight will go on. It just lost a key weapon when the clock struck midnight in Frankfort.


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