In a newly drafted bill to combat the state’s heroin epidemic, KY House members have allocated an additional $10 million for drug treatment programs. If the KY heroin bill is passed by the combined legislature, those funds will be accessible more quickly than previously allocated treatment dollars in the bill, The Courier-Journal reports.
Is it likely that the KY heroin bill will become law? State Legislature members have struggled to compromise between the conflicting proposals in the House and Senate bills. Now, with the lawmakers on break for over a week, the pressure will be on to come to an agreement in the final days of the legislative session. The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that the bill in question is not one of the two bills passed by the House and Senate this term, but a new bill the House quickly rewrote in effort to please the Senate. It was rejected before the break, however, and House and Senate members are expected to form a conference committee to try to resolve conflicts before the General Assembly session resumes.
KY heroin bill stuck on prison sentences, needle exchange programs
There are essentially two remaining conflicts holding the KY heroin bill back, according to the report in the Herald-Leader:
1) The bills that were passed by the House and Senate earlier in the session differed significantly in laws regarding prison sentences for heroin traffickers. House members wanted tiered penalties, with offenders caught with small amounts of the drug eligible for lighter sentences. The Senate bill took a hard-line approach with lengthy mandatory sentences for dealers found with any amount of heroin.
2) State Senators object to House legislation allowing local jurisdictions to set up needle-exchange programs in effort to reduce the transmission of diseases like hepatitis. House members claim the measure treats the heroin epidemic as a public health issue, but members of the Senate believe the programs encourage illicit drug use.
Compromise on the KY heroin bill has been difficult to come by, but to many it seems likely that some kind of bill will pass. There’s a high level of pressure to address the heroin epidemic, and lawmakers are aware of the expectation that they find some middle ground. The Kentucky heroin problem continues to put lives at risk, elevating the need for more access to treatment and health programs across the state.[Image by Jens Finke is licensed under CC BY 2.0]