Legislative fight against heroin continues
Delaware’s ongoing battle with heroin showed up in the General Assembly again Wednesday, with two new bills aimed at stemming the increasing tide in overdose deaths.
If passed, one bill from Middletown Democrat Sen. Bethany Hall-Long would create a new commission to study all overdose deaths in the state to try and connect patterns and better target policies to help addicts.
“To a large degree, we’re working from theories and assumptions when it comes to these overdose deaths rather than hard facts," said Attorney General Matt Denn (D) who supports the proposals.
Delaware already has similar commissions to investigate child deaths or those resulting from domestic violence. That commission would target three separate regions in Delaware and report any recommendations to state lawmakers and the governor at least once a year.
This is something that’s gotten a lot of attention here, since about 15 people die from an overdose in Delaware every month.
"We've all experienced the phone calls, the heartbreak, the tragedy and we know we can't continue to arrest our way out of this issue," Hall-Long said.
Last year, state lawmakers set aside $4.5 million to expand addiction treatment programs and increase bed space for in-patient treatment facilities.
A Senate committee released the bill and it’s waiting a full debate in the upper chamber.
The second bill would hold dealers accountable for selling drugs that their customers directly die from. This would make it a hefty felony – a minimum of two and up to 25 years in prison if they’re convicted.
Denn candidly admitted that these cases would be hard to prosecute, but he says they have to try.
“As far as I know, this offense of knowingly committing an illegal act that results in somebody’s death, this is the only instance where it doesn’t result in a minimum mandatory jail sentence.”
“Really, we know this is not going to solve the whole problem," said Cheryl Doucette, the aunt of Brock Cerklefskie who recently died from an overdose and who the law would be named after if passed.
"We’re hoping this is a first step. We’re hoping this is the first of many bills and new legislation to come as we continue in this fight.”
A House committee has yet to consider the bill.