Kenton County sheriff pushes for special session to combat heroin outbreak in region

'We are under attack'

COVINGTON, Ky. -- “We are under attack and it needs to be addressed promptly.”

That was a statement by Kenton County Sheriff Chuck Korzenborn Friday in a plea for urgency to combat the heroin epidemic in Kentucky.

The support of the governor, attorney general and leaders of both parties in the state legislature was not enough to pass a bill this week strengthening sentences for serious heroin dealers and expanding the state's substance abuse treatment programs.

Now, Korzenborn and state leaders are calling on lawmakers to go back to the Kentucky State Capitol for a special session so they can try again.

State lawmakers from both parties decided to target heroin this legislative session after a state report showed overdose deaths from the drug increased 650 percent in Kentucky in 2012. The Senate passed a bill in January that would make high-volume heroin dealers serve longer sentences. Known as Senate Bill 5, it would have required the state to pay substance abuse treatment and education programs.

But the House never voted on the bill. Supporters attempted to vote on the bill late Tuesday, but it got caught in a tangle of procedural votes that delayed it past midnight, when the state constitution mandates the legislature must adjourn.

"They should have gotten this bill passed a long time ago," Korzenborn said. “We as elected officials need to do the right thing for the families of all classes that have been affected by the ravages of heroin.”

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Korzenborn said he is not a fan of special sessions because of the expense on taxpayers.

But he said the situation is “an emergency” in need of an immediate resolution, justifying the cost.

Republican Senate President Robert Stivers agreed.

"If we come up here in five days and spent $300,000 to do something to stop or curb this problem, that would be money well spent," Stivers said.

Covington father Michael Chandler is also on the side of getting Senate Bill 5 passed.

He said he has had to watch heroin rip his family apart.

“My daughter was a beautiful person,” Chandler said. “She doesn't even see her kids anymore."

Chandler said he hasn't seen his daughter in months.

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He blames it on an outbreak of heroin in Northern Kentucky.

"It's driving me crazy and I'm all for anything that can be done to get this stuff off the street, because man, it is bad,” Chandler said.

Korzenborn said Senate Bill 5 would make Northern Kentucky neighborhoods safer -- and it would give Chandler a better chance of seeing his daughter live through her thirties.

"It's everywhere and something needs to be done," Korzenborn said.

Korzenborn has written letters to Kentucky’s governor and legislators addressing the issue. As of Friday evening, he has not received a response.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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