There have been some significant wins in the fight against prescription drug abuse in Kentucky.
That's unquestionably good. But one consequence has been that heroin use and deaths from overdoses have increased.
Despite that, a bill to combat heroin abuse may fail to clear both houses before this session ends. With only a few days left, the House and Senate must compromise to pass this important legislation.
The bill provides for enhanced punishments to keep dealers off the streets for much longer. But supporters of Senate Bill 5, including sponsor Senate President Pro Tem Katie Stine, R-Southgate, should agree to drop a provision allowing homicide prosecutions of dealers when a sale results in an overdose death.
Attorneys have raised serious questions about the constitutionality of the provision and, in any case, there would not likely be many prosecutions under it.
No one should vote against the bill based on an amendment offered Wednesday in the House by Rep. John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville, to allow users to exchange dirty needles for clean ones without risking prosecution. This is a commonsense measure to avoid accidental spread of disease, such as Hepatitis and HIV, both to users and to innocent people who might encounter needles on playgrounds or other public places.
As Tilley noted, the exchange locations would also offer the opportunity to provide heroin users with information about treatment options. Stine wasn't thrilled with the amendment but said she could accept it, saying "I want to save lives."
And her bill would save lives.
It would increase the availability of a drug that can reverse the life-threatening effects of an opiate overdose by allowing doctors to prescribe it to emergency workers and addicts' families. It would also require the state Medicaid program to cover several inpatient and outpatient treatment options for people addicted to opiates.
The bill also expands treatment facilities. Professionals say that it's important to offer immediate help to drug abusers when they are open to it. But with the current shortage, it can take as long as six months to find a spot in a residential facility.