FRANKFORT — Legislation designed to combat drug abuse in Kentucky has passed through the Senate and is now headed back to the House, its final stop before landing on the governor’s desk.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo’s House Bill 4 has been one of the most talked about bills of this legislative season. The bill aims to make significant changes in how health care professionals log the prescriptions they give out, and also seeks to allow more transparency between law enforcement, doctors, prosecutors, and licensing boards for health care professionals.
One of the main changes this bill would make is that it would move Kentucky’s prescription monitoring system, known as KASPER, from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to the Attorney General’s office. The hope in doing this is allowing more law enforcement and prosecutors to have a chance to use this resource to hold both doctors and individuals accountable for their prescribing drugs.
Stumbo has made several statements about the issue of drugs throughout the commonwealth of Kentucky, and that some of these problems stem from the over prescription of pain pills by doctors. Over the last few years, several pain clinics have been cited and even shut down for over-prescribing medications.
The bill also sets up a new chain of events when dealing with doctors accused of over-prescribing. Once an investigation has been done by a law enforcement agency, it is sent to the licensing board of that professional. That board is then required to launch their own investigation and take action toward punishing them.
The bill originated in the House and passed on March 8 by a vote of 81-7, however, not before quite a bit of debate. Several amendments were proposed in the House before the bill passed, mostly without any changes.
It was then sent to the Senate where it was reviewed by the judiciary committee. It was posted in the Senate for a vote on March 28. There was only one senator, Republican Jimmy Higdon, who proposed an amendment. He sought to keep the KASPER system with the Cabinet of Health and Family Services. The amendment proposed to form an investigation clearinghouse whereby investigators and licensing boards could share information.
This amendment failed in the Senate and the bill passed 26-9 without any changes. It was then taken back over to the House, getting the bill one step closer to being signed into law.