Kentucky has been one of the hardest hit states from the national opiate epidemic. According to a report from the Office of Drug Control Policy, Kentucky had over 1004 lethal overdoses in 2012, a 650% increase from 2011. The dramatic increase in overdose deaths has prompted many politicians to work together to change laws in the state. On December 19, 2013 Attorney General Jack Conway, Rep. John Tilley and Sen. Katie Stine announced a preview of the legislation they have drafted over the past several months. It will address the increase in heroin abuse and heavy trafficking that has been seen all over the state of Kentucky.
An increase in penalties for high-volume drug traffickers and the option for prosecutors to charge traffickers with homicide are key parts of the proposed law. If this law is passed, it will be consistent with the current federal law for drug traffickers. The law will require high-volume traffickers to serve a minimum of 50% of their sentence. At the moment, there is no distinction between small and large drug traffickers.
The bill is also requiring the Kentucky Medicaid Program to be more flexible and cover more treatment options for patients seeking help from opiate addiction. This will maximize tax dollars and dramatically increase the amount of treatment options for opiate addicts. This is outstanding because most people can not afford treatment on their own. Medicaid will cover far more options for addicts rather than being shut out due to financial costs of rehab. It's extremely frustrating for addicts trying to get clean because they are unable to afford treatment.
The new law will require the coroner to notify the Commonwealth's Attorney of all overdose deaths caused by a schedule 1 controlled substances. This will greatly aid the state in keeping accurate numbers. These numbers will be used to build statistics over time and help with prevention and education to the public on drug abuse. Accurate numbers are extremely important for a variety of reasons. Statistics have the ability to grab people's attention, and getting the State to recognize a problem and work on a solution. Providing accurate numbers is important to teach our youth about how deadly these medications can be.
I have written about the life-saving capabilities of Naloxone also known as Narcan, which is used to help people that have overdosed on opioids. Under the new law, doctors will be permitted to prescribe Naloxone to first responders and family members of addicts who request the drug to prevent an overdose from home. Naloxone can not be abused and it's only purpose is to reverse the affects of opioid overdose. The drug will save thousands of lives a year and it's popularity around the country is gaining steam. Many county and state governments are implementing Naloxone into their preventative overdose policies which is a great idea.
A sad reality is that many opiate overdose deaths can be prevented. One of these ways is by providing limited immunity from drug paraphernalia and possession charges for people who call 911 to report an overdose. Many addicts use their drugs together with friends and if one of them overdoses, the others usually panic and flee the scene in fear that they will be prosecuted for drug possession and for the overdose of their friend. The new law will allow these individuals much lesser penalties for trying to save their friend's life.
Kentucky is taking a huge step in the right direction by proposing a law with so many benefits to the community. Engaging the epidemic and trying to create preventative measures will not only save lives, but will also make better use of tax payers money. I am looking forward to seeing this law passed and witnessing the help it will bring to communities destroyed by opiate abuse.