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Heroin Bill in Kentucky House Includes Needle Exchange, Other Differences from Senate Version

Heroin comes in many forms
Heroin comes in many forms

The Kentucky House of Representatives now has its own version of a bill that seeks to combat the state’s heroin epidemic.

There are a few key distinctions between the House proposal revealed Monday and the bill that passed the Kentucky Senate earlier this year, including a provision that would allow local health districts to set up needle exchange programs. Needle exchanges have been a major hang-up for Senate Republicans in the past.

Rep. John Tilley, a Democrat from Hopkinsville, said a needle exchange program can be the first point of contact between addicts and people who can help.

“We are at wit’s end in the state, and for the country for that matter, to find things that will actually work, that will actually reduce drug-use that actually will get addicts into treatment, will break the cycle of addiction,” Tilley said.

The state Senate’s version of the bill would make selling any amount of heroin a class C felony and require people convicted of selling heroin serve half of their sentence. The House version sets up a three-tier system for punishing traffickers:

  • -A Class B felony for trafficking a kilogram or more of heroin, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
  • - A Class C for trafficking two grams to a kilogram of
  • - A Class D felony for Class for trafficking two grams or fewer.

Both the House and Senate versions set aside money for drug treatment, let offenders receive deferred prosecution if they report an overdose, and increase the use of drugs that can treat overdoses.
Tilley said the bill will likely be heard by the House Judiciary committee on Wednesday.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. He's covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Texas. He grew up in Lexington.

Email Ryland at
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