By: Patrick Flannery
Representative, State of Kentucky
Without a doubt, the opioid epidemic has taken a devastating toll on our state. It is an urgent and pressing health crisis that impacts our people’s quality of life and our state’s ability to reach our potential. We are not alone, as more than 100,000 Americans died of a drug overdose last year alone. Kentucky’s overdose deaths skyrocketed last year, fueled by the increased use of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that can be deadly even in very small amounts. In 2021, 2,250 Kentuckians died from drug overdoses, an almost 15% increase from the previous year, with fentanyl identified in 1,639% or 72.8% of the deaths, according to the state’s annual Overdose Fatality Report released earlier this week.
During the 2022 Regular Session, the General Assembly passed several initiatives to prevent substance use and addiction.
Expanding Access to Assisted Outpatient Treatment– HB 127 expands the use of Tim’s Law to better serve more Kentuckians in need of court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment (AOT). Tim’s Law was adopted in 2017 and has proven effective in allowing families, mental health providers, law enforcement officers and others to help someone with a serious mental illness. The measure instills hope for folks that may not always get the care they need and often feel forgotten about. We need to find ways to get them out of this revolving situation that often leads right to harmful behaviors. We are trying to build and grow a system of care that helps individuals manage their lives better and provides the right tools for a successful recovery.
Dalton’s Law – Trafficking– HB 215 enhances the penalty for importing carfentanil, fentanyl, or fentanyl derivatives to a Class C Felony. There are dangers not only the users but to innocent bystanders, EMTs, paramedics, firefighters, and police officers who respond to the scenes of drug overdoses. The measure increases time served for both the importing and the aggravated trafficking of fentanyl and related substances from a minimum of 50 percent served to a minimum of 85 percent.
Substance Abuse Intervention– HB 362 seeks to expand access to substance use disorder treatment by updating Casey’s Law. The bill makes health care professionals performing examinations subject to subpoena for purposes of cross-examination and allows an order of treatment to be issued if the court finds proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
Casey’s Law has helped over 6,000 people across the Commonwealth since it was enacted in 2004. It is a very successful program, and HB 362 helps make it even better. We simply strengthened Casey’s Law by updating the burden of proof. The measure ensures more people will have access to life-saving treatments for their substance abuse disorder.
Prescription Digital Therapeutics in Substance Abuse Treatment– HJR 28 directs the Kentucky Department for Medicaid Services to request federal guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for Medicaid coverage on prescription digital therapeutics. Digital therapeutics are treatments or therapies that utilize digital and often internet-based health technologies to spur changes in patient behavior.
Opioid Antagonist– SB 56 defines an opioid antagonist as naloxone or any Food and Drug Administration-approved opioid antagonist designed to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
This adjustment was necessary because it expands the scope of medicine that doctors can use on their patients as they experience an overdose.
We will continue our work to increase access to prevention and treatment services. In the meantime, if you or anyone you know is seeking help please visit findhelpnowky.org or call 1-833-8KY-HELP. The hotline can provide information on a variety of services and help identify the best next step to recovery.
As always, I hope you will feel free to contact me with any questions or issues. I can be reached here at home anytime or through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181. Please feel free to email me at Patrick.Flannery@LRC.KY.GOV. If you would like more information about any of these committees or legislative actions, you can visit the Legislative Research Commission website at legislature.ky.gov.