Manchester, Ky. (WYMT)-- As U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder calls increased deaths related to heroin an "urgent public health crisis," a bill working through the Kentucky General Assembly aims to help the problem.
"Right now, fewer substances are more lethal than prescription opiates and heroin," said Holder.
Senate Bill 5 would expand the people qualified to give naloxone, a drug that helps alleviate the effects of a heroin overdose, to include first responders, said Kentucky House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Tilley.
SB5 passed the Kentucky Senate in January. Its earliest opportunity for consideration on the House floor comes next Wednesday, Tilley said.
Use of heroin has increased in Northern Kentucky counties, but the drug's use could move south, said Clay County Sheriff Kevin Johnson.
"I'm quite confident, just because of the trends, it's up in Northern Kentucky, and if the trend holds like every other place, it will eventually be here," Johnson said.
Opening up the use of naloxone has a good history, said Operation UNITE President and C.E.O. Dan Smoot.
"Allowing first responders to carry and administer naloxone has been very successful in many jurisdictions," said Smoot.
The expansion would help, said Johnson, but he would rather see people with a medical background administer the drug.
"We should be trained in that if we are going to be mandated to prescribe that drug to possible overdose victims of heroin," Johnson said.
The bill would also update sentencing guidelines for certain drug offenses.
"We're still working on a couple of additions to it as we speak," said Tilley. "I plan to hear the bill before the end of the session, and one of the provisions in the bill contains a very broad and liberal application of the use of naloxone, which is a no-brainer."