Tougher laws proposed amid heroin deaths
BATON ROUGE - Heroin deaths and arrests are skyrocketing in the Baton Rouge area, and it's gotten the attention of state lawmakers who are looking to do something about it.
State Representative Franklin Foil, R-Baton Rouge, is looking to change laws and lock up dealers for at least 20 years.
Nicole Rill is looking to gather the pieces of her shattered life, as she completes day 52 of being sober.
"I was the walking dead in my addiction," Rill said during an interview at the O'Brien House. "I'm grateful to be alive and sober today."
Addicted to heroin since 19, the now 23-year-old recalls friends she's lost to the drug.
"A dear friend in California when I used to live there overdosed," Rill said. "August 19 makes two years since my friend Shaun overdosed and passed on from it."
Foil is trying to stop the heroin flow on the streets. He's filed a bill that would increase mandatory sentences for people convicted of possession with intent to distribute a Schedule 1 drug, which includes heroin as well as marijuana.
"I think to send a message to keep heroin dealers out of Louisiana, we need a minimum of at least 20 years," Foil said.
From suburbs to the city, the increase in heroin deaths and arrests are alarming. In Ascension Parish, heroin arrests jumped from just one in 2012 to 46 in 2013, according to numbers from the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office.
"Heroin dealers are violent offenders because they're selling a drug that will kill," Foil said.
In East Baton Rouge Parish, heroin deaths went from five in 2012 to 34 in 2013. Baton Rouge Police also seized exponentially more heroin than before.
"In 2012 we seized around 70 grams of heroin, compared to 2013 has been around 3,800 grams of heroin," said Baton Rouge Police Cpl. Don Coppola.
It's a deadly drug, that is easier than ever to find.
"It goes from being fun, to a daily thing, to I need to have it just to live," Rill said. "And that's not living."
Officials think this rise in heroin use is a combination of the drug being cheaper and easier to get than prescription pills that are also opiates. The mandatory minimum sentence as it stands now for heroin distribution is just five years.