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McConnell Calls Northern Kentucky 'Ground Zero' For State's Heroin Problem

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that northern Kentucky is the epicenter for the nation's heroin addiction problem.

The Republican Senate minority leader's comments came during the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control hearing in Washington, D.C. McConnell said Kentucky has the third highest drug overdose mortality rate in the country. Statistics from the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce show three northern Kentucky counties had 61 heroin overdose deaths in 2012.

“Clearly, the troubling facts I’ve just related show northern Kentucky has a serious heroin abuse problem. It is a major problem not for a few but for the entire region. And while northern Kentucky may be ground zero in my state, the problem of heroin abuse is spreading like a cancer across the Bluegrass State, where we are losing close to 100 fellow Kentuckians a month to drug-related deaths," McConnell told the panel.

McConnell said the state needs a combination of treatment and incarceration to solve the problem.

A bill in the Kentucky General Assembly would have increased penalties for major heroin dealers and expanded the state's substance abuse treatment programs. But the bill died on the legislature's last day despite having the support of leaders from both parties.