LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Legislation that aims to charge heroin dealers with homicide after an overdose death has a diminishing chance of passage this year, its sponsor said.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Katie Stine, R-Southgate, would also allow emergency responders to carry the overdose-reversing drug Narcan.
But opponents say the homicide provision is unconstitutional and have filed at least 15 amendments to the legislation, some of which Stine said would jeopardize the overall bill.
"We've involved as many people as possible, and now these Johnny-come-lately's want to sink the boat," Stine said. "It is absolutely foreseeable that, when you are trafficking in heroin, someone will die from it."
The bill passed overwhelmingly in the Senate in January, but struggled to get out of a House committee last week over the concerns.
Speaker Greg Stumbo has said he expects it to come up for a vote in the House during the final two days of the session in mid-April. But, if the House makes changes, the Senate would still have to agree to them.
Legislative action last year on prescription drug abuse has led to a dramatic drop in pill overdoses, but addicts have turned to heroin, said Dr. Eric Fulcher, emergency room medical director at Sts. Mary and Elizabeth Hospital.
"Heroin, by a large margin, is the life-threatening overdose that we see," Fulcher said, saying the emergency room sees several a week. "It's pretty hard to get everybody (off of) heroin because, in their mind, it's a pretty good thing."
Melissa Halfhill, of Jeffersontown, urged lawmakers to pass the legislation. Her daughter, 19-year-old Katie Gillespie, died in January of a heroin overdose after two years of struggling with addiction.
"If this (legislation) was in place at the time this was going on with Katie, it may have saved her life," Halfhill said.
Gillespie's final hours were spent with a 32-year-old drug dealer she'd known for five days, Halfhill said. He wasn't charged.
"My daughter's death has created a hole in our family and her friends and this person is allowed to go on without even a slap on the hand," she said.
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