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Keene Joins Beshear, Others to Fight Deadlier Heroin

The Commonwealth of Kentucky will toughen its laws to fight the increasingly dangerous heroin crisis, Attorney General Andy Beshear announced Friday.

Beshear appeared at a news conference Friday with Northern Kentucky State Rep. Dennis Keene (D-Wilder) and Rep. Russ Meyer (D-Nicholasville) who have pre-filed legislation to amend the state's laws to fight the powerful drugs that have caused an increasing number of overdoses and deaths across the Commonwealth.

“In the past months, reports of heroin related overdoses and deaths have skyrocketed as drugs become more potent,” Beshear said. “Heroin is now often mixed with other very dangerous substances, like fentanyl, a drug 30 to 50 times as powerful as heroin, and carfentanil, an elephant tranquilizer. Carfentanil is 100 times more potent than fentanyl and 10,000 times more potent than morphine. My office is lending its support and resources to lawmakers like Rep. Meyer and Rep. Keene to fight this growing scourge and to save our families.”

“There is no tougher issue facing Kentucky right now than heroin and synthetic drugs like fentanyl,” Rep. Keene said. “The epidemic is reaching into every neighborhood. It is time for Kentucky to step up and toughen the penalties by accelerating the sentencing for people who are pushing these dangerous drugs in our communities.”

“Our drug epidemic continues to evolve and bring major challenges to every community throughout our state,” Rep. Meyer said. “As leaders we must take every necessary step to fight it and protect our families. This legislation is aimed at newer drugs impacting our communities and other drugs that might come our way. The only way we are going to directly respond to these rising challenges is to work with our attorney general, law enforcement agencies in Kentucky and other leaders to hit this problem head-on. This legislation does that.”

The bill’s goal is to address fentanyl and similar powerful synthetic opioids, both known and unknown, by creating a new class definition for known fentanyl derivatives. Currently under state law classifications only cover fentanyl derivatives scheduled in Kentucky.

Under the legislation, controlled substance analogues, a broader definition, would cover unknown fentanyl derivatives and chemicals that have been altered beyond the current class description. 

Additionally, the bill creates and increases criminal penalties for trafficking of fentanyl, fentanyl derivatives and analogues, which are structurally similar chemical compounds. Both known and unknown fentanyl derivatives are potent and deadly. The increase amends previous statutes treating these drugs the same as heroin, despite them being significantly more dangerous.  

Kentucky’s criminal penalties must adequately reflect the dangerous and deadly nature of these drugs, said Beshear, lawmakers and a group of local law enforcement officials at today’s announcement in Lexington.

Beshear joined Reps. Keene and Meyer earlier Friday in Grayson where they testified before the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary on solutions to Kentucky’s growing drug epidemic. 

Beshear said there are potentially 830 analogues or chemically similar versions of fentanyl, but according to the federal officials, Kentucky has only seen about 30 versions in the Commonwealth.

Beshear’s office recently assisted in a series of fentanyl overdoses in a 24-hour period in Mount Sterling.

“While I’m proud that investigators from my office assisted in the investigation that led to the arrest of the suspected fentanyl dealer, the drug overdoses continued to surge,” Beshear said. “Just days later after what happened in Mount Sterling, Louisville experienced 28 overdoses in one day. We must work with all leaders to help our communities save their residents.”

Southern Ohio and Northern Kentucky recently had an epidemic of heroin being mixed with carfentanil that lead to several overdose deaths.

Beshear said drug treatment is an important part in Kentucky’s fight against addiction.   

In the 2016 legislative session Beshear worked with lawmakers to use $8 million from a lawsuit his office won against a drugmaker to fund 15 high-quality substance abuse treatment centers and organizations throughout the state.

The Attorney General’s office also helped to secure $2 million from a settlement with another drugmaker to fund Rocket Docket programs. These programs expedite drug-related cases through the judicial system and get those who need it most to treatment quickly. The programs create efficiencies for the state, local county jails and prosecutors, generating more than $10 million in savings last year.

“I’m proud that we could make this money available for recovery, but it’s not enough,” Beshear said. “Drug abuse is the single greatest threat to job growth and to a better life for all of us. That’s why I’m proud to support this legislation to hold those who would knowingly harm, even kill Kentuckians, to higher penalties in the law.”

-Staff report

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