Plan for funds in anti-heroin bill announced by administration, Chamber talks justice reinvestment
After legislators passed a compromise bill to combat the scourge of heroin in the state, Gov. Steve Beshear announced Monday that his administration has crafted a plan for the $10 million appropriated in the anti-heroin legislation.
Senate Bill 192, the compromise bill that passed in the final hours of the 2015 session, included tougher penalties for traffickers, the ability for local governments to set up needle exchange programs, increased accessibility of the overdose-countering drug naloxone to first responders and other medical professionals, a Good Samaritan provision and funding mechanisms for treatment programs across the state.
The bill tasked Justice Cabinet Secretary J. Michael Brown with appropriating the funds in the most needed areas beginning in fiscal year 2016, which begins July 1.
Brown presented the funding recommendations Monday in front of the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary. The recommendations include up to:
- $1 million to the Department of Corrections (DOC) for substance abuse treatment programs for county inmates in local jails.
- $500,000 to expand substance abuse treatment programs for state inmates in local jails.
- $1.5 million to DOC for an injectable, Food and Drug Administration-approved extended-release treatment program to prevent an opiate relapse as offenders are released from custody.
- $2.6 million for grants to community mental health centers to fund additional substance abuse treatment resources on a local level.
- $1 million to address neonatal abstinence syndrome by assisting with transitional care and wrap-around services.
- $1.2 million to the Department for Public Advocacy (DPA) to fully fund DPA’s social worker program, for the purpose of developing individualized alternative sentencing plans.
- $1.2 million to the Prosecutors Advisory Council to enhance the use of “rocket docket” prosecutions in controlled substance cases.
- $1 million to the Kentucky Agency for Substance Abuse Policy or KY-ASAP to supplement traditional programming.
In a press release from Beshear’s office, Rep. Sannie Overly of Paris said she believes the funding will make a major difference in combating the state’s heroin epidemic. Overly was the legislator who proposed the amendment to the legislation to include the $10 million in funding for these programs.
State Sen. Chris McDaniel, one of the architects of the anti-heroin legislation, was also quoted in the release saying he was glad to see the recommendations and looks forward to working with Brown to ensure the final utilization of the funding.
Chamber discusses need for more reforms to justice system
Another topic discussed at the Interim Joint Committee was justice reinvestment, an effort supported by the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.
Kentucky Chamber Public Affairs Director Ashli Watts testified in front of the committee Monday alongside Rep. Brent Yonts of Greenville and Public Advocate Ed Monahan to talk about the Chamber’s Leaky Bucket report which was published in 2009 and identified areas of unsustainable spending growth – corrections, Medicaid and public employee benefits – that are diverting tax dollars from education and economic development.
Watts stated that while it may seem like some of the Chamber’s stances on corrections might seem like an unusual position the organization to take, the Leaky Bucket report showed that from 2000-2009, Kentucky’s total General Fund spending increased by 33 percent, compared to a 44 percent increase in corrections.
The Kentucky Chamber is interested in such state spending because the business community contributes approximately 40 percent of all state tax revenues and Watts noted that every dollar spent in prisons is less money for other state programs that have a more positive impact, including education.
In the aftermath of the report, Watts told legislators the Chamber has supported penal reform legislation including House Bill 463 in 2011 and juvenile justice reforms enacted in 2014. However, because full projected savings have not been realized the Chamber has made recommendations to lawmakers to continue full implementation of reforms and carefully consider any efforts to increase penalties that will cause higher corrections costs.
“We also encouraged the General Assembly to continue reviewing the Kentucky Penal Code with the goal of creating more alternatives to incarceration for low-level, non-violent crimes and focus on jail time for more serious offenses,” Watts said. “I am happy to be here and to work on behalf of the Kentucky Chamber with Rep. Yonts, the DPA, and other stakeholders to work toward a solution that would benefit Kentucky.”
In his testimony, Rep. Yonts presented his “Common Sense Criminal Justice Reforms to Reduce Waste,” proposals he believes will cut back on corrections costs while also holding offenders accountable.
Yonts suggested the state should reduce incarceration of low-level non-violent offenders and instead hold them accountable with fines and convictions. Because of the large amount of people being put in prison for lower-level crimes, Yonts said Kentucky should create a Gross Misdemeanor classification for some serious non-violent offenses with less than 24-month sentences.
Among his other recommendations, Yonts also suggested the state should create a mechanism for supervised probation/parole for non-violent misdemeanor offenders, adjust pretrial release program so it is consistently applied across the state to save money, require parole for some non-violent Class D offenders and more.