The Kentucky Senate has passed a bill to combat a deadly surge in heroin addiction, a trend blamed for devastating families while putting a burden on courts and police in hard-hit areas.
The measure, a mix of additional treatment for addicts and harsher punishment for higher-volume heroin dealers, cleared the Senate on a 36-0 vote.
It came on Jan. 16, the same day that a Senate committee reviewing the measure was urged to take action by a judge, a nurse, a police chief and the father of a man who died of a heroin overdose.
The scope of the problem is statewide, but Kentucky’s northernmost counties situated near Cincinnati have been especially hard hit by the rise in heroin addiction.
The bill was sent to the House.
Gov. Steve Beshear and Attorney General Jack Conway also have urged action. Beshear noted in his recent State of the Commonwealth speech that overdose deaths involving heroin rose from 22 across Kentucky in 2011 to 170 in the first nine months of 2013.
The bill calls for tougher punishment for higher-volume heroin traffickers. They would have to serve more of their prison sentences before becoming eligible for parole.
They currently have to serve up to one-fifth of their sentences before reaching parole eligibility.