On Tuesday night, the Kentucky General Assembly voted to enact legislation designed to fight the growing heroin epidemic. The bill, known as Senate Bill 192, is designed to perform two critical functions. The first is to send a clear message that selling and distributing heroin will not be tolerated and the second intends to help treat those struggling with addiction. In addition, $10 million has been set aside to facilitate the implementation of the bill.
While some people may feel the money could be better spent elsewhere, the heroin epidemic has become such a problem that it is forcing the state to take action. Over the past 5 years, heroin related deaths have risen dramatically. This directly correlates to the workload within the Kentucky State Police crime lab, which reflects a 400 percent increase.
A recent study shows roughly 1 in 10 Kentuckians intimately knows someone who is struggling with heroin addiction. In order to assist those with addiction, the bill calls for immunity to any drug user who reports an overdose. In addition, the bill demands an increase in the use of Naloxone (which helps reverse the effects of overdoses) and Vivitrol (which helps wean users off of heroin), greater needle-exchange programs, and more money to fund substance abuse programs.
While the bill is clearly aimed at aiding addicts, it also aims to punish heroin dealers more severely. The selling of two grams of heroin will now be a Class “C” felony which calls for a sentence of 5-10 years. This will also apply to anyone caught smuggling the drug into the state. Anyone who is arrested for selling more than 100 grams will face a Class “B” felony, which carries a sentence of 10-20 years.
While this bill is only the starting point on a long road to recovery for many, it can be seen as a culture shift in how our system assists drugs addicts. With an epidemic of this magnitude, the answer is not found in harsher penalties. Instead, it is found by creating a system and foundation that promotes healing and recovery through rehabilitation and counseling. Rather than treat those suffering from heroin addiction like criminals and continue to place them in our already overcrowded jails, Kentucky has taken a progressive approach by attempting to provide assistance to those in need.
If you or someone you know is struggling with drug addiction and as a result of their struggles has been charged with a drug crime, please contact our criminal defense attorneys as soon as possible. At Bleile & Dawson, our legal team is extremely knowledgeable in criminal law, defending clients throughout the State of Ohio and the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
Call (513) 399-5945 today for a completely confidential consultation.