KENTUCKY (FOX19) - The Kentucky Senate has passed a bill aimed at combating a deadly surge in heroin addiction, 36 to nothing. The bill calls for tougher punishment for higher-volume heroin traffickers.
The measure now goes to the Kentucky House and is being applauded by the families of heroin addicts, law enforcement and the courts.
There's no question that heroin's toll in the tri-state has been great. At the Campbell County Courthouse, the criminal dockets are full and more often than not it's because of heroin related cases.
"Ninety or ninety-five percent of everything I see is related to drugs and at least 80 to 90 percent of it is heroin related," explains Karen Thomas of the Campbell County District Court.
It's a problem that fuels crime.
"You've got not only possession of heroin charges, but you've got the trafficking charges that go along with that then you've got robberies and burglaries and shoplifting, paraphernalia and thefts of copper," says Thomas.
"The biggest thing we've seen is the deaths. In 2011, we had 25 overdose deaths in Campbell County," says Wayne Turner, Ky. Police Chief. "Just one year later 2012 that number climbed to 54."
The families of those who've overdosed pay a terrible price.
"It's a devastating issue for the families that are experiencing not only the addictions and losing a family member, but what it does to the nucleus of a family as a whole," adds Turner.
"We have so many parents who can't take care of their children," says Thomas. "Those children are winding up in foster care, committed to the state because mom and dad are addicted to heroin.
Rosie Christian's son, James Burton, died from an overdose in the Hamilton County Jail. Due to the shortage of treatment beds, James was on a waiting list before he was arrested for theft.
"It's totally massive deaths on it because they have no place to go," explains Christian.
A bill sponsored by Kentucky State Senator Katie Stine (R) takes a three pronged approach to the heroin problem.
"It addresses education, it addresses treatment and it also addresses interdiction," says Stine. "The effort is to not only deal with the traffickers, but also see what we can do to help folks who've become addicted."
If the Kentucky legislature passes Senator Stine's bill, it's hoped that there will be fewer heroin related cases passing through these courtrooms and fewer heroin overdose victims going to the county morgue.