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WKU Public Radio

Western Kentucky University students struggling with mental health issues can now tap into an on-campus support group.  

The National Alliance for Mental Illness is starting the free and confidential program which is available to students in all degree programs.

The group’s first meeting is Feb. 1 from 6:00-7:30pm in room 211 of the Academic Complex. Meetings will be held twice a month.

WKU Social Work Professor Jay Gabbard is the faculty member overseeing the group, along with trained NAMI staff.

He wants students to know that having a mental illness doesn’t mean they can’t succeed in school and in the workplace.

“I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was 20, and through management of the illness over the years I’ve managed to have a successful life,” Gabbard said. “But I think it’s best to utilize a three-pronged approach: medication, therapy, and support resources.”

Owensboro Public Schools

Students in two Owensboro elementary schools now have new ways to cut down on fidgeting and concentrate on their work. That's thanks to new desks. 

Estes Elementary got 10 pedal desks for kindergarten classes. The desks look a little like a tricycle with a desk on top. They allow students to get a little exercise while learning.

Sutton Elementary got 39 standing desks that give students the choice of standing up or sitting on a stool. The desks are similar to what you might see in an art or design studio.

Fourth grade teacher Gina Davis has most of the standing desks in her classroom. 

"The students are definitely more focused and they love using them," says Davis. "Many students choose to stand the whole time. I've never said they have to stand or they have to sit, but they're choosing to do a lot of standing."

She’s been teaching for 20 years and says she’s already seen a difference since the new desks came in a few weeks ago.    

WKU

Governor Matt Bevin wants to influence any performance-based funding model used by Kentucky universities.

The leaders of the state’s public schools and the Council on Postsecondary Education have been working for 18 months on a proposed formula for any new funding they receive.

But not only are universities not in line to receive new funding in the next state budget, they’re facing significant cuts.

Western Kentucky University Vice President of Public Affairs Robbin Taylor says Bevin has indicated he wants any such model to be based largely on how well schools help address workforce development needs.

Taylor says she thinks schools now have to re-evaluate what they’ve been working on.

"I don't want to say this negates all that, but it sort of puts all that on hold. As the Governor has indicated, he didn't think it went far enough, and he'd like to be a part of making those decisions, and has indicated his desire to work with the university presidents and the Council on Postsecondary Education to come up with those measures."

US Geological Survey, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

After a federal Court of Appeals rejected an industry-led challenge last month, a new federal rule to reduce coal miners’ exposure to dangerous dust goes into effect Monday.

In 2009, the Mine Safety and Health Administration began a campaign to end black lung disease, which is caused by breathing in large amounts of coal dust. The disease was in decline for decades but has experienced a recent resurgence.

“This disease is far from over,” MSHA Secretary Joe Main said. “Miners have suffered, families have suffered from this disease, and the time has come to fix this problem. And implementation of this rule will help us get there.”

Part of MSHA’s campaign includes federal rules to keep better track of the coal dust to which miners are exposed. Companies now have to take more dust samples, as well as sample for an entire shift. Over the next few months, coal miners working in the jobs with the most dust will have to wear small continuous personal dust monitors.

Kentucky Commission on Human Rights

Former Kentucky state Sen. Georgia Powers has died.

Powers was the first African American and first woman elected to the Kentucky Senate, where she served for 21 years beginning in 1968.

She was 92.

Powers was born in Springfield in Washington County, but she grew up in Louisville. She became involved in social justice work during the Civil Rights Movement and helped organize the March on Frankfort in 1964.

The first bill she sponsored as a state senator was to provide equity in housing.

Powers lived most of her life in West Louisville and was a champion of its neighborhoods. A portion of Interstate 264 is named for her.

Ryland Barton

The state inspector general ordered the Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky to immediately cease providing abortion on Thursday, the same day the organization announced it had begun offering the services.

In a letter sent to LaToya Rose, director of the Planned Parenthood chapter, acting Inspector General Stephane Hold said that the organization’s application for an abortion license had been found “deficient.”

In Kentucky, abortion facilities are required to have an agreement with an acute care hospital and an ambulance service that can provide treatment for abortion patients who have complications during the procedure.

The inspector general said in the letter that Planned Parenthood’s documentation of an emergency hospital and ambulance service were inadequate.

“The absence of adequate written agreements with an acute care hospital and a local ambulance service prevent us from continuing our review of your application at this time,” the letter said.

WKU

WKU President Gary Ransdell announced at Friday's Board of Regents meeting in Elizabethtown that he is retiring effective June 30, 2017.

He said he wanted to give the school ample time to find a successor. He will have served as WKU President for 20 years by the time he leaves the post.

Ransdell said picking the right time to step aside has been something he and his wife, Julie, have been discussing for a while.

"We want to do this on our terms, and this has been an incredible 19 years so far, and will be an incredible 20 years," Ransdell told WKU Public radio.  "We just felt like our health is good and I've seen so many people in this job retire and not have the best of circumstances with their health."

In an email to faculty and staff,   Ransdell said he believes he has fulfilled the commitment he made in 1997 to transform the university. 

"WKU is a dramatically different institution today than it was 20 years ago – financially, physically, intellectually and attitudinally.  Serving my alma mater has been a dream come true," said Ransdell.

LRC Public Information

Hours after Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky announced its Louisville clinic had begun providing abortions, the state House approved a bill requiring women seeking an abortion to meet — in person or via video conference — with a doctor at least 24 hours before the procedure.

The bill, which passed 92-3, is a victory for Republicans who have failed to pass so-called “informed consent” bills through the Democratic-led House for more than a decade.

House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, a Republican from Jamestown, called it a “historic day.”

“The informed consent law was something that many of us have long fought for, many members of our caucus, and we knew members of our majority caucus would vote for it if we could ever get it there,” Hoover said.

The bill originally required the meetings to take place in person, but the video conference option was added during an unposted committee hearing that took place in an office during the middle of the day’s proceedings.

In just over a month, Kentucky Republicans will hold a presidential caucus for the first time in more than three decades. Republicans in the past have joined Democrats in holding a May primary election for president. But this year is different.

Warren County Caucus Chairman David Graham spoke to WKU Public Radio about the differences between a caucus and primary.

Graham:  Caucuses can be very different, but in our case, it's going to be very much like a primary, only it will be at a different date, and it will be run by the party and not the county or state.  Our caucus will be March 5.  Most every county will have one voting location and voters can come in anytime between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. and vote very much like they would in a normal primary.

Abbey Oldham

As U.S. Senator Rand Paul prepares for a Republican presidential debate Thursday night, a former Kentucky House Speaker says Democrats could benefit from Paul’s White House bid.

Glasgow attorney Bobby Richardson was a state Representative from 1972-1990, and served as House Speaker during the 1982 and 1984 General Assembly sessions.

Richardson says whoever emerges as the Democrat’s nominee for U.S. Senate should remind voters Paul is seeking two offices at the same time.

“I think he needs to say he’s running for the United States Senate, and I’m going to be a Senator. I’m not going to be running for President, and I’m not going to be running for anything else. I’m going to be there taking care of business.”

The Kentucky Republican Party is holding a presidential caucus March 5 so that Paul can run for re-election to the Senate and seek the White House simultaneously.

Kentucky LRC

A top state pension executive told legislators on Wednesday that a bill requiring greater transparency of the pension systems for Kentucky’s public employees would be harmful to his agency.

Regardless, a Senate committee unanimously approved the bill.

The bill would make the pension systems for state workers, teachers and state officials subject to open records requests. Pension managers would also have to disclose investment holdings, fees and manager commissions.  Investment contracts would be subject to review by the state auditor and legislative committees.

State Sen. Joe Bowen, a Republican from Owensboro, said the changes have been demanded by Kentucky residents.

“They want accountability, they want transparency and they want us to have the capacity to be proactive on these challenges that we’re facing in today’s world, as opposed to being reactive,” Bowen said.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Clayton Sieg

The chief executive of Aetna is optimistic about the future of the company and Louisville following the planned sale of Humana.

When it was announced last year, Aetna’s plan to buy Louisville-based Humana launched immediate concerns abut the future of about 12,000 jobs in the city. The Connecticut-based Aetna has said it plans to base its Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE businesses in Louisville.

Far from job loss, Aetna’s plan has led to speculation that the job stock in the city could grow.

Humana CEO Bruce Broussard and Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini spoke on Tuesday night about the future of the merged company and Louisville during the Greater Louisville Inc. annual meeting. Nearly 1,000 business leaders attended the meeting.

Broussard said the merged company and Louisville have a “very bright future.”

WKU

In an e-mail to faculty and staff late Wednesday afternoon, WKU President Gary Ransdell said Governor Matt Bevin's proposed budget cuts to higher education present a substantial challenge to the university.

Bevin's proposal calls for a 4.5 percent budget cut this fiscal year. That translates to $3.3 million out of WKU's budget by the end of June. Nine percent reductions would go into effect after that.

"There are many details of this plan that are yet to be understood, and with regard to performance funding, those details have yet to be defined," Ransdell said in his message. "So we are a long way from fully knowing how WKU will be impacted by these proposals.  I am confident, however, that WKU will fare well in any measure that is outcome or performance based.

Ransdell says the budget contains at least one bright spot for WKU. Gov. Bevin's budget proposal contains an equity funding appropriation for both WKU and Northern Kentucky University. Ransdell says the appropriation would held "level the playing field for our students who are paying a disproportionate share of their education in comparison to students at other Kentucky universities."

Flickr/Creative Commons

A new collaborative effort in Warren County is looking to train workers to fill high-tech manufacturing jobs in the region.

The South Central Kentucky Manufacturing Career Center includes businesses, schools, employment agencies and non-profits.

The center will train up to 16 people at a time at South Central Kentucky Community and Technical College. Courses are to begin at the center Feb. 2.

Students will take a 12-week course focusing on the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.

Rhonda J. Miller

The owner of the new Dueling Grounds Distillery in Franklin says he isn’t aiming to be one of the big guys on Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail.   

Marc Dottore will make smaller batches of bourbon in the craft distillery set to open in April.

"This kind of happened out of doing some Bourbon Trail tours and seeing how it was made at a large scale, and then finding out there was this whole world of smaller people in the 200 to 300 gallon capacity making really good, hand-crafted quality spirits," says Dottore. "I thought that’s something I could aspire to. I like that.”

Dottore says his distillery near I-65 is well-positioned to be part of the Kentucky Craft Bourbon Trail. That route currently includes Corsair Artisan Distillery in Bowling Green, MB Roland Distillery in Christian County, and Wilderness Trail Distillery in Boyle County.

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