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State Drug Czar Confident in New Heroin Law

Eric Molina, Wikimedia Commons

One of the most significant pieces of legislation to come out of this year’s General Assembly session aims to curtail Kentucky’s heroin epidemic. 

Van Ingram, head the state Office of Drug Control Policy, is glad a needle exchange program made it into the final bill.

“We have Hepatitis C rates that are skyrocketing in this state. The good news is there’s a treatment for Hepatitis C now. The bad news is it’s $100,000 a patient. The majority of those are Medicaid patients. So this is important. If we can just reduce Hepatitis C exposures, we save tons of money, and lives as well,” Ingram said.

Local health departments would have the option of creating needles exchanges, allowing addicts to trade out dirty needles for clean ones. Health departments would first need approval from city and county governments. Governor Steve Beshear signed the heroin bill into law Wednesday. It also toughens penalties for traffickers and increases access to an overdose-reversing drug.

Ingram also supports the Good Samaritan clause.

“It says if two people are using drugs together and one of them suffers an overdose, the calling party won’t be charged. So many of our drug overdose victims were with somebody else when they died and the story was, ‘I didn’t call the police or the ambulance because I was afraid I would go to jail,’” Ingram said.

Ingram says 2014 data isn’t available yet, but he expects about 30 percent of overdoses deaths in Kentucky were heroin-related. That’s compared to three years when about five percent of overdose deaths were the result of heroin use.

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum. She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years. Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville. She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky. Many of her stories have been heard on NPR.
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