Father of man who overdosed skeptical of proposed mandatory minimum sentence for heroin dealers

Posted at 6:49 PM, Feb 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-16 05:51:54-05

COVINGTON, Ky. -- A bill passed unanimously by the Kentucky State Senate, now headed to the House, would give heroin dealers uniform sentences no matter how much of the drug they were distributing.

In Covington, some might call the reaction to the bill -- from a Northern Kentucky man who lost his son to an overdose -- surprising.

Eric Specht's son died from an overdose more than three years ago. He and his wife run Northern Kentucky Hates Heroin, so one might expect he'd back a mandatory minimum five-year sentence for dealers.

However, Specht said tougher sentences for dealers may not be the answer to the growing problem of heroin in Kentucky.

"I have mixed feelings on it," he said. "It worries me greatly, to be quite honest."

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Specht said the problem is that he worries there are addicts who could be prosecuted as dealers based on the paraphernalia they're caught with. And the effects of putting addicts behind bars could be devastating, he said.

"Those people don't need incarceration," Specht said. "They need rehabilitation."

The Spechts started their community outreach organization shortly after their son, Nick, died.

"We were devastated," Specht said. "We didn't know what to do. The stigma surrounding heroin addiction was tremendous, and still is."

Specht said he was concerned that those convicted would have nowhere to turn after prison besides back to heroin.

"Now they need to get out and get a job," he said. "How are they going to do that if they have felonies against them? It makes it that much more difficult for someone who wants to get back into society and wants to get rid of this problem."

Specht said there's no "silver bullet" in the war against heroin, but if the bill becomes law and serves its true purpose, it will certainly gain his support.

"If this legislation allows us, allows law enforcement to get a lever on dealing and dealers and trafficking that we didn't have before, then that's a good thing and I'm all for that," he said.