For the Associated Press
Published Friday, April 18, 2014
By RAE HODGE
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) – After a bill aimed at stemming Kentucky’s growing heroin problem failed to pass during the state’s legislative session, officials say local solutions to the statewide problem are limited but that they are pushing ahead
Dr. Bonnie Hedrick is the coordinator of the Northern Kentucky Agency for Drug Abuse Policy. Although lawmakers decided against the bill that would’ve provided a needle exchange program, Hedrick is pushing for needle cleanup efforts. Likewise, first responders did not get authorization to carry an overdose antidote, so she’s urging area doctors to prescribe it to addicts.
“We contacted every police department through our local courts to make the areas where the Easter Egg Hunts are going to be held are clean of needles,” Hedrick said. “If they are held in a public park, for example, or an area where they know there is drug activity and is open to the public, we want to make sure those areas are clean for children and families.”
“We’re going to be tracking those needles, where they are, how many there are, in an effort to educate our legislators and the public in regards to not only their own personal safety but also the need for this type of protection strategy,” said Hedrick, who was recently notified of a police officer being stuck with a heroin needle during a pat-down of a suspect.
Hedrick would like to see the governor’s office or state health department declare a health emergency over the problem. Although she said she isn’t sure whether that would unlock funding or law enforcement options, but that she is “hoping that it would at least draw attention at the very highest levels to establish policy, procedures and funding for the strategies that we know work. We know that this is our only recourse right now.”
Although widely praised across party lines in the Kentucky Legislature, a provision of the anti-heroin bill allowing first responders to carry the antidote Naloxone died when the bill failed to pass at the final hour. Hedrick says her organization’s response has been to push local physicians to prescribe it, as legally permitted, to more heroin abusers and their family members.