FRANKFORT —Legislation addressing Kentucky’s heroin epidemic progressed with extraordinary speed Thursday in the Senate, and is now on its way to the House.
The legislation was approved without opposition.
The bill stiffens penalties against traffickers and seeks to treat addicts while they are behind bars. The legislation adds $13.3 million for treatment; $7.5 would go to county jails for programs and the rest would go to community mental health centers. The Senate judiciary committee approved the legislation on Wednesday.
State Sen. Christian McDaniel, a Taylor Mill Republican and sponsor of the legislation, spoke on the measure Thursday from the Senate chamber. He said two groups must be addressed in the legislation—”the user and the dealer.”
“Dealers do not deserve our sympathy, our compassion, or our charity,” McDaniel said. “These people who prey on others have proven to be some of the lowest forms of life on the planet, and the only thing they are entitled to is a lengthy prison sentence so they can learn that Kentucky is not where they want to be.”
Though multiple Democratic senators rose to voice concerns to what they say are dangerous provisions in the bill, all voted to pass it. State Sen. Robin Webb, a Grayson Democrat, said small-time users would be charged as traffickers, and she cautioned McDaniel not to dismantle the progress of Kentucky’s successful drug court.
Webb, an attorney, said she was in court earlier this week with an Iraq combat veteran who was charged with two counts of trafficking heroin.
“She found herself in the throes of addiction, dealing with a dealer whom I don’t have any sympathy for,” Webb said. “As she stood there in her recovery, this is the kind of individual we had in mind for these courts, not warehousing an addict for a lengthy amount of time.”
State Sen. John Schickel, a Union Republican, has previously advocated for a cold turkey approach when it comes to expanding substance abuse treatment. On the Senate floor Thursday, he admonished those who would call for legislation with more addiction treatment provisions.
“I live in one of the most affluent areas of the state, and I have personal friends who have spent thousands, over $100,000 on treatment, for their loving children that they love so much—and would spend a million dollars if they had to and had the means to do it,” Schickel said. “Guess what—their children are dead.”
House Democrats have not yet offered their version of an anti-Heroin bill, though would-be sponsors are adamant that their provisions will focus primarily on expanding the historically low number of treatment options in the state.