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New Indiana bill aims to reduce Fentanyl deaths

Small doses of Fentanyl can be lethal // WSBT 22 Photo

Indiana lawmakers are trying to create new ways to combat the opioid epidemic.

Synthetic drugs Fentanyl and Carfentanyl are becoming more powerful, prevalent and deadly.

A new proposal bill at the Indiana Statehouse aims to send a message to those type of drug dealers.

It could have an impact locally, as more toxicology reports from deceased overdose victims are showing those substances in their system in St. Joseph County.

Senate Bill 337 authored by Republican Senator Jim Merritt aims to reduce those fatalities by getting the most lethal drug dealers off the streets.

Dealing a substance like a narcotic is already within the state’s felony murder statute, but this new bill would add Fentanyl and Carfentanyl to that list.

Any person who deals either of those would commit a Level 2 Felony. Plus, if any of those transactions lead to a user’s death, the dealer would face murder charges.

The St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office and Drug Investigations Unit are encouraged the state is looking at this issue.

Dave Wells, Commander of the St. Joseph County Drug Investigations Unit says, "These are drugs - this Carfentanyl and Fentanyl - they’re actually killing people, killing kids. The opiates, the dealing of the pills on the streets. If somebody dies from that we are coming after you.”

Right now, the level of charges and amount of time offenders do is based on weight, but that would change if the bill is passed into law.

It takes the equivalent of seven or eight granules of sugar of Fentanyl to kill a person and just one or two granules of Carfentanyl will do the same.

St. Joseph County Deputy Prosecutor Amy Cressy is in favor of this new legislation.

“I think this legislation recognizes how little it takes to kill someone," says Cressy. "It recognizes the danger to the community. These are substances that the tiniest bit – and it can be absorbed through your skin, you can inhale it – is deadly.”

Cressy and Wells say this legislation will hand the most threatening dealers more time in prison and less time on the streets. They say it will help reduce deaths and violent crime in the county.

"This is just something that really will end up helping us have sharper teeth," says Wells.

“We are going after the worst of the worst," says Cressy. "The people who are dealing in large volumes, who are armed, who are doing it for the money and are profiting off that misery of other people and people who are killing folks.”

SB 337 the bill is now in committee at the Statehouse.

Another bill that could impact the state’s fight against the opioid epidemic is Senate Bill 200.

It would create mandatory minimums for drug cases in Indiana.

If you have a prior felony conviction for anything other than a marijuana --e a level two or three felony – you can’t suspend your sentence. You would have to spend time at Department of Corrections facility.

If passed, Senate Bills 200 & 337 would go into effect July 1st.

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