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Senators tackle bills on illegal drugs, nurse practitoners, more

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The second week of the 2014 Regular Session brought schedules packed with meetings, rallies, press conferences and hearings on bills. We met with constituents, citizen groups and fellow lawmakers as we began vetting proposed legislation.

The first bill passed by the Senate this year marks a bold move in our ever-evolving fight against illegal drugs. The Commonwealth has seen a sharp increase in heroin abuse recently, and overdose deaths have increased more than six-fold since 2011. Senate Bill 5 takes a multi-faceted approach to save lives through focused treatment, education and interdiction.

The measure increases treatment funding for heroin and opiate addiction and requires Medicaid to cover treatment options.  It also allows first responders to administer the life-saving drug Naloxone to overdose victims and provide “good Samaritans” a measure of legal immunity when seeking medical care for someone who has overdosed. 

The bill stiffens penalties for heroin and methamphetamine traffickers, requiring they serve at least half their sentence before being eligible for probation.  It also empowers prosecutors to charge traffickers with criminal homicide in cases of fatal overdose.

I also am happy to report that my Senate Bill 7 passed the chamber this week. This legislation is born out of much collaboration and compromise to ultimately work to help Kentuckians in rural areas receive better access to quality healthcare.  The bill enables nurse practitioners to independently prescribe non-scheduled – or routine – medicines.

The bill establishes an advisory committee for a “Collaborative Agreement for APRN Prescriptive Authority for Non-Scheduled Drugs” (CAPA-NS) process between APRNs and collaborating physicians. The committee makes recommendations to nursing and medical boards and assists nurse practitioners in finding collaborating physicians to complete the CAPA-NS.

Under the bill, nurse practitioners who have practiced for at least four years can prescribe common non-narcotic medication without a collaborative agreement with a doctor. Since many Kentuckians in rural parts of the state rely on nurse practitioners for routine care, this expands access to medicine. 

Both bills now go to the House for consideration. 

Though it’s still early in the year, the session is already getting busy.  I encourage you to come to Frankfort for hearings of interest to you. Citizens are always welcome in our committee meetings.  You can also view live-streaming and archived coverage of legislative proceedings at www.ket.org.

Other resources include our eNews page, www.lrc.ky.gov/pubinfo/listserv.htm. You can subscribe to frequent e-mail updates on what’s happening at the Capitol. In addition, the General Assembly has its own blog, Capitol Notes, www.lrc.ky.gov/pubinfo/capitol_notes.htm that will allow you to receive legislative updates at your leisure.

You can also stay in touch with General Assembly action in the following ways:

 • A taped message containing information on legislative committee meetings is updated daily at (1-800) 633-9650.

• To check the status of a bill, you may call the toll-free Bill Status Line at 1-866-840-2835.

• To leave a message for any legislator, call the General Assembly’s toll-free Message Line at 1-800-372-7181.  People with hearing difficulties may leave messages for lawmakers by calling the TTY Message Line at 1-800-896-0305.

• You may write any legislator by sending a letter with the lawmaker’s name to: Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, Kentucky 40601.

 Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, represents the 20th District including Carroll, Henry, Shelby and Trimble counties, as well as part of Jefferson County. He can be reached at his office by calling (502) 564-8100.