Delaware lawmakers tout bills aimed at fighting heroin addiction

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Sen. Bethany Hall-Long (D-Middletown) holds a press conference inside the Senate chamber on Wednesday in support of Senate Ball 174, which would create a Drug Overdose Fatality Review Commission. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

DOVER — Delaware lawmakers announced a bipartisan effort to combat heroin addiction Wednesday, hosting a news conference to discuss two recently introduced bills.

House Bill 239 would create a new class B felony, drug dealing resulting in death, punishable by two to 25 years in prison.

Senate Bill 174 would institute a Drug Overdose Fatality Review Commission to study fatal opiate overdoses and issue recommendations on how to prevent them.

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Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn speaks during Wednesday’s press conference.

“With an average of 15 overdose deaths a month in our state, we are losing more Delawareans to heroin and opioid drugs than we are in car crashes,” said Sen. Bethany Hall-Long, a Middletown Democrat and the lead sponsor of the Senate bill.

“It’s an epidemic that is tearing our families apart. Our efforts today show that tougher enforcement and providing the necessary recovery resources for those facing addiction are not mutually exclusive. We need to do both to solve this problem,” she added.

The group would function similarly to the Child Death, Near Death and Stillbirth Commission.

House Bill 239, sponsored by Rep. Timothy Dukes, R-Laurel, is named after Brock Cerklefskie, who died of a heroin drug overdose in August after a years-long battle with addiction.

“When he died, his family turned to the justice system for closure, but the family was left with no help,” Rep. Dukes said. “There’s no provision in Delaware law that holds a drug dealer responsible in the event that the person they are selling the drugs to does, in fact, die.

“My bill will go after those drug dealers, like the one who sold the heroin to Brock and hold them responsible for his untimely death.”

Senate Bill 174 was released from committee Wednesday.

Reach the Delaware State News newsroom at newsroom@newszap.com

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