Heroin bill clears House panel as lawmakers talk compromise
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky lawmakers agree that heroin is a growing problem and now they're trying to agree on a solution.
Even as a heroin bill cleared an important House committee on Wednesday, lawmakers were talking compromise.
Although the Heroin bill easily made it out of the House Judiciary Committee, it's clear some lawmakers still have major concerns.
“There is no magic wand we can wave over this problem,” said Rep. John Tilley (D-Hopkinsville) the chairman of the committee and sponsor of the heroin bill.
It may not be magic, but Tilley says House Bill 213 can help combat a heroin problem that is only getting worse.
“In January of 2015, we had 97 overdoses, versus 45 in that same month of 2014. So the problem continues to get worse and worse,” said Dr. Glenn Loomis of St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Northern Kentucky.
Greg Mandell lost his son to overdose and is now an anti-heroin activist.
“This committee today can -- has the power -- to make a big step forward to reducing the number of lives that are lost in this state due to an overdose,” Mandell told the committee.
The bill calls for three tiers of sentencing for dealers; from small-scale peddlers to high-level traffickers.
Lawmakers heard testimony that prison alone will not solve the problem.
“For many offenders, longer criminal sentences have little impact on recidivism, and may even make them more likely to commit another crime upon release,” said Dr. Katie Zaft of the Pew Charitable Trust.
That's why the bill also increases treatment options for addicts.
“We're trying to get to increased treatment, increased intervention and help so that these lives aren't lost,” said Tilley.
The bill passed unanimously, but even those voting “yes”expressed concern.
“I am troubled by some provisions in it, but this will not be the final product that comes out of this General Assembly,” said Rep. Joseph Fischer (R-Ft. Thomas).
Among those voting for the bill is Representative Joni Jenkins (D-Louisville), who lost her nephew Wes to a heroin overdose.
“There's going to be some compromise, and we look forward to talking about those compromises,” said Jenkins.
The full house should vote on Friday, which is symbolic. The bill number is 213, and Fridays date is 2-13. That's also the birthday of Joni Jenkins' nephew Wes.
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