In response to the rapid increase in heroin overdoses over the last year, Kentucky lawmakers announced that they would propose legislation in the next session to provide more treatment for addicts and impose tougher penalties for high-level traffickers. According to the Associated Press, heroin overdose deaths in the state rose by 650 percent over 2012, and nine people died in the city of Lexington in just the last month.
Over the past few years, legislators in Kentucky have passed laws to combat prescription drug abuse and the production of methamphetamine and synthetic substances. Heroin is emerging as the new target, as many individuals who abuse opioid-based painkillers are turning to the illegal narcotic as a cheaper alternative.
Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers told the source that the proposed law has a good chance of passing because its balanced approach will provide treatment instead of punishment for addicts.
"You want to delineate between the individual who is addicted and could be helped out of that problem, versus the guy that's the profiteer," Stivers said to the source.
Under current Kentucky law, high-volume heroin traffickers only have to serve one-fifth of their prison sentences before they are eligible for parole. The new law would require them to serve at least half of the term. In addition, high-level drug dealers could be charged with homicide if any of their customers die from overdoses. Defendants would not be allowed to blame the victim or claim that they didn't know that heroin was deadly.
To help addicts, the proposed law would redirect money from the state's correction facilities to fund addiction treatment and anti-drug education programs.