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Fighting the war on drugs

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By Jimmy Higdon

The second week of the 2014 Regular Session brought schedules packed with meetings, rallies, press conferences and hearings on bills. We met with constituents, citizen groups and fellow lawmakers as we began vetting proposed legislation.
The first bill passed by the Senate this year marks a bold move in our ever-evolving fight against illegal drugs. The Commonwealth has seen a sharp increase in heroin abuse recently and overdose deaths have increased more than six-fold since 2011. Senate Bill 5 takes a multi-faceted approach to save lives through focused treatment, education and interdiction.
The measure increases treatment funding for heroin and opiate addiction. It also allows first responders to administer the life-saving drug Naloxone to overdose victims and provide “good Samaritans” a measure of legal immunity when seeking medical care for someone who has overdosed.
The bill stiffens penalties for heroin and methamphetamine traffickers, requiring they serve at least half their sentence before being eligible for probation. It also empowers prosecutors to charge traffickers with criminal homicide in cases of fatal overdose.
A second bill, Senate Bill 7, passed by the chamber this week, helps Kentuckians in rural areas receive better access to quality healthcare. Senate Bill 7 enables nurse practitioners to independently prescribe non-scheduled – or routine – medicines.
Under the bill, nurse practitioners who have practiced for at least four years can prescribe common non-narcotic medication without a collaborative agreement with a doctor. Since many Kentuckians in rural parts of the state rely on nurse practitioners for routine care, this expands access to medicine.
Both bills now go to the House for consideration.
Though it’s still early in the year, the session is already getting busy. I encourage you to come to Frankfort for hearings of interest to you. Citizens are always welcome in our committee meetings. You can also view live-streaming and archived coverage of legislative proceedings at www.ket.org. My website, www.jimmyhigdon.com, hosts updated information. Also, you can call me at 1-800-381-7181 and at my home, 270-692-6945. I appreciate any input and welcome your questions and comments.