Loving: Legislation Would be No Magic Cure for Drug Problem Across Kentucky

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THE DAILY NEWS | KATIE BRANDENBURG | JANUARY 8, 2015

Local officials and advocates are weighing in on legislation promoted by Gov. Steve Beshear on Wednesday in his final State of the Commonwealth address, including a statewide smoke-free policy and measures to battle the state’s growing heroin abuse problem.

Tommy Loving, director of the Bowling Green-Warren County Drug Task Force, said any legislation will not be a magic cure for heroin abuse problems in the state, but he does think such legislation could help.

Loving favors a bill that would enhance jail sentences for large traffickers of the the drug. “If that’s not a deterrent, it’ll keep them off the streets longer,” he said.

Loving said he also welcomes an added emphasis on treatment.

Heroin is a dangerous drug, and there is an entire generation of people that may not realize how addictive and dangerous it can be, in part because there are no controls for quality and dosage, he said.

“They think they’re going to get high, and they wind up dead,” Loving said.

Heroin use locally is not at the “epidemic” proportions it has reached in Lexington, Louisville and Northern Kentucky, he said.

However, Loving said, last year in Warren County three of the 12 reported overdose deaths were probably related to heroin use.

Carol Douglas, tobacco programs coordinator at the Barren River District Health Department, said she is hopeful legislators will support a law in this session that would make workplaces and public buildings smoke-free.

“As a state legislator, one of their primary responsibilities is to protect their constituents,” she said.

Douglas said the legislation would not be a ban on smoking but would require smokers to smoke outside indoor workplaces – including restaurants – and public buildings.

Exposure to secondhand smoke can increase a risks for lung cancer and heart problems, she said.

The health department also encourages businesses to go smoke-free voluntarily, which Douglas said can save money on housekeeping and maintenance costs, as well as by reducing the number of employee sick days.

If smoke-free policies are expanded statewide by legislators, businesses will no longer have to worry about losing business by making the decision to go smoke-free, she said.

However, Jim Waters, president of the Bluegrass Institute in Bowling Green, said lawmakers in Frankfort should respect decisions communities have made in regard to going smoke-free.

“The problem with that is that local communities have made their own decisions on that,” he said.

Waters said he wanted to hear more from the governor during his address about how the state is going to pay for its expansion of Medicaid.

He said Beshear isn’t looking to other states for ideas about how to improve in the areas of economics and education.

States such as Indiana have passed statewide right-to-work legislation to help with economic development efforts and are working to expand school choice, Waters said.

“Would the governor not have us consider some of these best practices we find in other states?” he said.

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