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Kentucky’s Heroin Crisis

The heroin law passed in March 2015 by the Kentucky General Assembly provides for locally enacted needle exchange programs, Good Samaritan protections for those who request help for an overdose victim from being charged with drug possession, and expanded use of the overdose reversal drug Naloxone.

The law also requires tougher penalties for heroin dealers. However, peddlers caught with small quantities of heroin without having any additional evidence of drug dealing will get shorter sentences and treatment options.

Archived Coverage:

KET’s ongoing coverage of the heroin crisis is featured in the video archive below:

Challenges Facing Today’s Teens

An Oldham County family tells their story of denial and heartbreak when heroin addiction strikes one of their own in the KET documentary What Does Every Teen Need?

The Houchens family experienced a deep shock when their college-age daughter Abby became addicted to heroin.

“My family did not know that I was doing any kind of drugs,” Abby says. “They thought I had an eating disorder because I had lost a significant amount of weight.”

Eventually her parents confronted her and the rocky road to recovery began. Abby has not used heroin in a year, and the family has grown through the experience. “I think with our younger daughter we’ve had more frank conversations. There’s things that we can talk about now that maybe we wouldn’t have before,” says Abby’s father, Rob Houchens.

White House Drug Czar Visits Kentucky (2015)

When Michael Botticelli toured eastern and central Kentucky in May 2015, the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy brought more than a professional interest in the state’s heroin epidemic.He added his own experiences as a recovering alcoholic to his conversations with addicts, police officers, health care providers, and government officials. Botticelli and 6th District Congressman Andy Barr talked about local efforts to tackle substance abuse on the May 24, 2015, edition of  One to One with Bill Goodman.

The Heroin Epidemic: Kentucky Fights Back (2014)

Heroin-related deaths in the state rose sharply from 22 in 2011, to 143 in 2012,  and 230 in 2013. “The problem we’re facing now is the transition from prescription opiates to heroin,” said Dr. Allen Brenzel, medical director, Department of Behavioral Health, Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. In this Oct. 27, 2014, episode of Health Three60, Renee Shaw and guests share how concerned communities are coming together to save lives, expand treatment options, and prevent others from falling into the grip of this highly dangerous and addictive drug.

A View from the Emergency Room (2014)

Dr. Robert H. Couch of Norton Audubon Hospital’s Emergency Department discusses the huge increase in heroin overdoses and new measures to treat addicted patients in the Oct. 7, 2014, edition of Kentucky Health.

Casey’s Law (2012)

Charlotte Wethington’s son, Casey, died of a heroin overdose in August 2002.  In this segment from Health Three60, Wethington shares how she was forced to sit helplessly as her son spiraled downward. Vowing to create a means for others to intervene on behalf of a loved one endangered by substance abuse, Wethington sought help from state legislators. Her efforts resulted in The Matthew Casey Wethington Act for Substance Abuse Intervention, which became a Kentucky law in July 2004. Learn more.

Where We Were: Probing Prescription Drug Abuse (2011)

In 2011, KET examined the prescription drug abuse epidemic, which health experts say was the precursor to today’s heroin epidemic. In this Nov. 11, 2011, edition of Health Three60, a drug treatment counselor, a narcotics detective, and a prevention specialist highlight the most promising strategies for dealing with prescription drug abuse.