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Senate Committee Passes Bill Addressing KY's Heroin Problem

Stu Johnson / KPR News

In a rare vote for the first week of a short legislative session, a Senate Judiciary committee has unanimously adopted a measure aimed at tackling Kentucky's heroin problems.  The bill calls for increased treatment in jails, tougher sentences for traffickers, and wider distribution of a drug designed to reverse the effects of an overdose. 

Jessica Tomlin lost a sister to heroin.  She says increased treatment is a priority.

"Do I feel that this senate bill with treatment in jail could have helped my sister? Definitely," Tomlin said. "Because you know what my sister learned in jail? She learned where to get more drugs, more people more contacts."

The senate panel also heard from Lexington's Alex Elswick, a recovering heroin addict.  He says he first got addicted to OxyContin after having his wisdom teeth removed years ago.  

"I didn't actually stop using Oxycontin until I was introduced to a cheaper more available alternative called heroin," Elswick said. "I want you to hear this. Every minute of every hour of every day I spent in addiction was abject misery."

Ernie Lewis is with the Criminal Defense Association. Lewis supports increased treatment but he says tougher penalties for traffickers can impact users who give drugs to friends.  The bill now goes on to the full senate. ?

Stu Johnson is a reporter/producer at WEKU in Lexington, Kentucky.
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