Representatives from Operation UNITE community coalitions across the state rallied in the Capitol Rotunda Wednesday, February 28, to show support for pending substance abuse legislation aimed at reducing the impact of drugs in Kentucky.
Governor Ernie Fletcher participated in the event to push several significant bills being reviewed during the final days of the session. These bills will make a large impact on violent crime and make a difference in the lives of all Kentuckians.
"The drug problem was not created overnight and it will not be solved in a matter of days, weeks, months or even years, but with the proposed legislation that is on the table we can and will more effectively be able to attack the problem," Fletcher said. "Substance abuse is a very large problem, but it is one we are not going to surrender to. We must continually fight it every day."
Substance abuse has an especially significant impact upon children and
families of drug users. The devastating effects of drugs was highlighted by Marcus Kidd, a fifth-grade student at Rogers Elementary School in Wolfe County.
"When I was just three years old my mom and dad were on drugs," said Kidd, reading from an essay he wrote as president of his school's UNITE Club. "They would leave us and go get drugs. Sometimes we would go with them. Since drugs mess with your mind, we got beat with sticks, cords, their hand, and spatulas. Plus we had to move a lot. Our trailer went from really nice to horrible. They sold our beds, refrigerator, sink, stove, TV and toys for drugs."
"It's no secret Eastern Kentucky has been devastated because of illegal
drugs. Today is one more example of how our region is uniting together in order to stand up and say we have had enough," said Karen Engle, executive director of UNITE (Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment and Education). "Enough loss of life, enough wasted potential, and too many children suffering at the hands of addiction. We are here to ask legislators to stand with us in this important fight."
Tom Coderre, a former Rhode Island state senator who battled through his own cocaine addiction, also participated to stress the importance of
intervention and treatment.
"You don't realize it is happening when it is going on. I'm not unlike many people. I was in denial," said Coderre, who recently joined Faces & Voices of Recovery as their national field director. "If you seek help early you don¹t have to lose everything."
The substance abuse bills include:
* Senate Bill 88 (sponsored by Senator Robert Stivers)
o Asset forfeiture revisions
o Enhanced internet pharmacy legislation
o Electronic monitoring of pseudoephedrine purchases
* Senate Bill 67 (sponsored by Senator Ray S. Jones II)
o Reducing DUI aggravating BAC .18 to .15
o Driving under the influence of drugs
* Senate Bill 34 (sponsored by Senator Dan Kelly)
o Pre-trial drug diversion bill
* Senate Bill 129 (sponsored by Senator Robert Stivers)
o Hidden compartment
o Unclaimed property/money
Senate Bill 88 holds pharmacies as well as physicians, consumers and
"internet brokers" accountable for their involvement in illegal drug
trafficking. The bill will require an in-person examination of a patient and
precludes physicians who have no relationship with a patient other than an internet questionnaire before prescribing controlled substances. This legislation will also connect Kentucky pharmacies electronically and record pseudoephedrine purchasing data at the point of sale. Individuals who are purchasing from numerous sources will immediately be identified.
"This legislation is important to our comprehensive approach to preventing substance abuse in Kentucky," said Senator Robert Stivers (R-Manchester). "The components of this bill will make Kentucky's communities safer."
"It is critical that law enforcement work together to combat the drug
epidemic facing our citizens," said Attorney General Greg Stumbo. "KBI
agents are currently training other law enforcement agencies on the Internet Pharmacy law and will continue to enforce it and yield results beyond the $1.5 million in drugs already seized."
Senate Bill 67 would create a "per se" violation of the DUI statute if the
driver has at least a certain amount of a controlled substance, such as
amphetamine, cocaine, heroin and other substances in the urine or blood. It would also reduce the DUI aggravating BAC from .18 to .15.
"Driving under the influence involving drugs is a huge issue, especially in the region I represent. This legislation will assist prosecutors as they
attempt to litigate these types of cases," said Senator Ray Jones II
(D-Pikeville). "Senate Bill 67 is a vital step in ensuring that our roadways
are safer to travel as a result of strengthening impaired driving statutes."
Senate Bill 34 would require the Department of Corrections to operate an intensive secured substance abuse recovery program for substance abusers seeking or utilizing pretrial diversion in certain circumstances. The bill would also allow the jail health triage system to screen for substance abuse risk factors for certain felony offenders, it would require pre-trial screening of felony substance abuse offenders and to allow testing and treatment as a condition of pre-trial release.
"Creative programming like this is truly an investment in Kentucky's future that can't be quantified," said Senator Dan Kelly (R-Springfield). "For investments on the front-end where we reach out to those in need before they have gone to prison - saves taxpayers money that includes not only the costs of incarceration, but quite probably a continued cycle of crime. And no one can put a price on broken homes, domestic violence, and other tragedies families are suffering in this state because of a loved one's drug addiction."
Senate Bill 129 will be a violation of state law if a person knowingly
possesses a vehicle with a false, hidden or secret compartment intended to conceal illegal items from law enforcement. The bill will also allow officers during the course of conducting an investigation who seize unclaimed property or money to claim if no one comes forward. The money or property will be transferred to the officer¹s employing agency for official use provided that the agency has made a bona fide effort to return the money or property to its lawful owner.
The 2007 Legislative Regular Session ends March 27.
For more information about Operation UNITE visit their website at
* * * * *
In 2003, Fifth District Congressman Harold "Hal" Rogers (R-Somerset) worked to create Operation UNITE, a regional anti-drug initiative empowering citizens groups and community leaders in 29 southern and eastern Kentucky counties. UNITE, which stands for Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment & Education, seeks to fight the drug epidemic by expanding drug awareness and education programs to keep people from using drugs; coordinating drug treatment and outreach programs for those who are already addicted; and operating regional undercover law enforcement task forces for interdiction and prosecution of those dealing drugs. Rogers has directed $33.1 million in federal funds to the counter-drug initiative over the past three years. For more information contact Karen Engle toll-free at 1-866-678-6483.
Drug Tip Hotline 1-866-424-4382
Treatment Referral Hotline 1-866-90-UNITE (1-866-908-6483)
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