Lisa Autry

Reporter/Producer

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum.  She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years.  Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville.  She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky.  Many of her stories have been heard on NPR. 

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says a new federal law can begin to turn the tide of drug fatalities in Kentucky and nationwide. 

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, or CARA, sets up a federal grant program to help combat heroin and prescription drug abuse.  The law seeks to improve prevention and treatment resources, and provide more first responders with anti-overdose drugs. 

Flanked by law enforcement in Bowling Green on Wednesday, McConnell said CARA will give local agencies the funds to help addicts while prosecuting drug dealers.

"For the people who are using, it's obviously a sickness and they must be cured," remarked McConnell.  "These guys have a lot of sympathy for those people, but they have no sympathy, I assume, for the people making it possible for this addiction to be fed."

While not every area of Kentucky has a heroin problem, most of the state is experiencing prescription drug abuse, as well as crystal meth and synthetic drugs.  Statewide, more than 1,200 people died last year from drug overdoses.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is hosting a public meeting Thursday on plans to widen a portion of Nashville Road in Warren County.  

The section of highway is from Buchanon Park to the Simpson County line.  Transportation Spokesman Wes Watt says the project will create a continuous alternating passing lane.

"It just means there will be a passing lane in each direction.  They'll just rotate," explains Watt.  "You may have a passing lane for three-fourths of a mile in one direction, a transition, and then the passing lane will switch to the other direction, and then it will rotate back."

The passing lane is needed due to increasing traffic between Bowling Green and Franklin, and a high number commercial trucks and slow-moving farm equipment using the highway. 

The public meeting will be from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at Woodburn Baptist Church. 

There is currently no timeframe for beginning and completing the project.

The Civil War Trust

A non-profit organization is preserving part of Kentucky’s Civil War history.

The 1862 Battle of Perryville was Kentucky’s largest and bloodiest Civil War battle.  The Civil War Trust recently purchased 70 acres of the hallowed ground in Boyle County. 

Meg Martin, Communications Director for The Civil War Trust, says the latest area to be preserved is known as the Western High Water Mark of the Confederacy, which refers to the farthest point reached by Confederate soldiers in the Western Theater during the Civil War.

"An interesting tidbit about this particular parcel is that there are likely still several Union soldiers laid to rest there," Martin told WKU Public Radio.  "Their bodies would not have been moved."

Grants and a national fundraising campaign allowed the Civil War Trust to purchase the 70 acres, bringing the total amount of land preserved at Perryville to 1,027 acres.

The percentage of Kentucky workers enrolled in high-deductible health insurance plans increased by nearly six times between 2006 and 2014.  A report released by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky shows the growth of those plans is nationwide. 

Foundation CEO Susan Zepada says consumers typically choose high-deductible plans in exchange for lower monthly premiums.

"When people are having to pay those first dollars before their health plans kick in, it does make them more prudent consumers when they have a choice in the health care that they seek out," Zepada told WKU Public Radio.

Zepada says consumers on high-deductible plans also tend to use fewer preventive services such as vaccinations and screenings, which may save money in the long run. 

Most of the state’s nearly 94,000 Kynect enrollees have chosen plans with high-deductibles.  The report did not address what may happen if Kentucky transitions to the federal health care exchange.

Lisa Autry

A group of Kentuckians will witness history being made next week at the Democratic National Convention.  Hillary Clinton is expected to officially become the nation’s first female presidential nominee. 

Kentucky is sending 55 delegates and five alternates to the convention in Philadelphia.  Among them is Michele Thomas of Bowling Green who knows a thing or two about her party’s national conventions.  She was an alternate delegate for Hillary Clinton in 2008 and a delegate for Barack Obama in 2012.  Her face lights up just talking about the experiences.

“There’s just a poignancy in the air.  There’s exhilaration," says Thomas.  "You’re there with a lot of people excited about their candidate and who want their candidate to win.  It’s similar, but not the same as a football game like if Louisville plays UK.”

A corner of her home is a museum of sorts for Democratic politics.

A Bowling Green organization that provides treatment for youth suffering from alcohol and drug dependency has received additional state dollars. 

Attorney General Andy Beshear presented Necco with a $700,000 check Thursday.  Beshear said early intervention is key to breaking the cycle of addiction.

"If you can get somebody successfully through recovery, not only are they not going to use, but their kids and their kids' kids are less likely to use," stated Beshear.  "By investing in adolescent treatment now, we increase our chances of reducing future costs of law enforcement, incarceration, and health services."

Necco received the funding from an Oxycontin lawsuit filed by the attorney general’s office against Purdue Pharma.  The settlement dollars are going to drug treatment and recovery facilities throughout Kentucky. 

Necco has ten offices statewide, including locations in Bowling Green, Elizabethtown, Owensboro, and Somerset.

Lisa Autry

After pleas from the public, a traffic signal will be installed at a busy intersection in Bowling Green where a young girl died earlier this year. 

Ten-year-old Giselle Arias was struck and killed March 30 while crossing at the intersection of Gordon Avenue and Scott Way. 

Nearby residents and State Representative Jody Richards pressed the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to install a traffic signal to avoid future tragedies. 

Following a meeting last week with Lieutenant Governor Jenean Hampton, state highway officials announced plans to install a signal and to constrict traffic on Gordon Avenue from four lanes to three. 

The cost and timeline for completing the work have not been determined.  More than 9,000 vehicles travel Gordon Avenue each day.

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Forty-six delegates and 43 alternate delegates from Kentucky will be among the crowd at next week’s Republican national convention in Cleveland. Donald Trump is expected to formally accept the GOP nomination for president at the event.

The real estate mogul Trump won 79 of Kentucky’s 120 counties when state Republicans held their presidential caucus in March, but like elsewhere around the country, not every Kentuckian is enthusiastically supporting Trump.  Owensboro businessman J. Todd Inman is going to the convention as a delegate from Kentucky.

“Donald Trump will be the nominee," stated Inman.  "The question is what’s the process to get to that ultimately.”

Inman says Trump wasn’t his first choice, or his second for that matter, but his allegiance now stands with the billionaire businessman.

Lisa Autry

The man charged in the brutal murder of a young girl in Allen County was back in court Wednesday.  Timothy Madden made his first court appearance since January.  He is awaiting trial for kidnapping, raping, sodomizing, and murdering seven-year-old Gabbi Doolin. 

During the preliminary hearing, the defense asked for more time to review evidence submitted by the prosecution.  Another court date was scheduled for September 7.  Outside the courtroom, Gabbi’s cousin Lori Doolin Wilson said the waiting is hard.

"We're all not happy with how slow it's going, but we understand that's the process," Wilson commented. "We just want justice served and this needs to be done correctly."

Doolin’s body was found in a creek behind Allen County-Scottsville High School last November just 30 minutes after being reported missing at a youth football game. 

A decision is expected soon on whether Mike Pence will become the running mate of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. 

Although Pence endorsed Ted Cruz for president in the primary season, the first-term Indiana governor is considered one of Trump's top-tier choices among vice presidential prospects. 

Republican National Convention delegate J. Todd Inman from Owensboro expects an announcement before the convention begins Monday.

"I think the vice presidential candidate has the potential to help shape and make the convention better," Inman told WKU Public Radio.  "In my political calculation, it would be better to get that person out on Thursday or Friday, carry the news for the next three or four days, and then roll right into the convention."

Pence is well-respected among conservatives and served 12 years in Congress.  Political observers say he may help convert Republicans who have been reluctant to support Trump.

Pence would have to give up his re-election bid for Indiana governor if he runs as Trump’s vice president. 

Inman says he doesn’t think Pence would accept the VP slot unless he felt Trump had a very good chance at winning the White House.

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Daviess County has declared a local state of emergency following strong storms Friday morning. 

Judge-Executive Al Mattingly says the declaration will allow the county to be reimbursed for clean-up costs associated with the storm that brought winds of up to 70 miles per hour.

"We had a lot of tree damage, limbs blown down, and a lot of trees uprooted as a result of the saturated soil and high wind.  Some of those trees fell on homes or vehicles," Mattingly told WKU Public Radio.  "We also had a lot of agricultural crop damage."

About 10,000 Daviess County homes and businesses lost power.  There were no injuries reported. 

Mattingly says the storm came on top of heavy rains and flooding earlier in the week which led to a statewide emergency declaration. 

Meanwhile, Governor Matt Bevin on Friday issued an executive order that bans price gouging.  The order prohibits businesses from inflating the price of gasoline, building supplies, and other goods and services during the statewide emergency.  The order will remain in place for at least 30 days. 

Lisa Autry

It’s opening day for a substance abuse treatment center in Bowling Green.  Recovery Kentucky will begin accepting clients at its new men’s campus on Old Louisville Road. 

Former heroin addict Chris Thomas is director of the 107-bed facility.  He says treatment centers are an addict’s best chance at success.

"For every dollar we spend on these programs it's saving the taxpayers about three dollars.  It's a big difference in terms of breaking the cycle and sending them straight from jail back into society or giving them six or seven months of treatment where we phase them back into society, and they become a lot more successful that way."

Some of the clients will be referred from the Department of Corrections while others will voluntarily report to the facility.  Despite concerns from a nearby domestic violence shelter, Thomas says the center will not house violent or sexual offenders.

Health experts in western Kentucky are considering a needle exchange program to curb the spread of H-I-V and Hepatitis C. 

Kentucky lawmakers voted in 2015 to give health departments the authority to set up the exchanges amid the state's heroin epidemic.

The exchanges would let any IV drug users anonymously swap out dirty needles for clean ones. 

"Kentucky is the number one state in the nation with high Hepatitis C rates and we want to protect our citizens from the spread of these diseases," remarks Public Health Director Deborah Fillman at the Green River District Health Department.  "It's not enabling a drug user.  It's about getting resources for these folks such as available treatment options."

Fillman has been taking some cues from Louisville, the first city in the state to implement a needle exchange program, but she says the exchanges would be tailored to best meet the needs of western Kentucky. 

The Green River District Health Department serves Daviess, Hancock, Henderson, McLean, Ohio, Union, and Webster counties.  Upon approval from the district’s board of health, it would be up to local cities and counties to decide whether to create needle exchanges.

More than 1,200 people died of drug overdoses in Kentucky last year.  Heroin accounted for 28 percent of those deaths, but state officials are most concerned about a prescription drug being mixed with heroin. 

Fentanyl is an opioid that is 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin and can prove deadly at very low levels, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. 

A report issued Tuesday by the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy underscores the dangers of Fentanyl, which accounted for 420 overdose deaths in 2015, or 34 percent of all overdose deaths in the state. 

Former heroin addict Chris Thomas of Bowling Green says Fentanyl has a tranquilizing effect.

"The effects of heroin, when you use it, you're going to be drowsy and a lot people almost pass out  immediately, and Fentanyl is going to increase that," Thomas told WKU Public Radio.  "It's a cheaper drug than heroin and you think in the end you're getting a better product, but it's going to be more likely to kill you."

Thomas says some heroin users could be consuming Fentanyl and not be aware of it.  Fentanyl accounted for 420 overdose deaths in 2015, or 34 percent of all overdose deaths in the state.  The drug’s high potency allows traffickers to reap more profits.  The legislature passed a bill last year to improve treatment and increase penalties for traffickers.

Diocese of Owensboro

The Catholic Diocese of Owensboro has suspended the pastor of a Union County church who is accused of sexual misconduct decades ago.  The Rev. Freddie Byrd was removed as pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church in Morganfield. 

A complaint issued this month accuses Byrd of inappropriate sexual contact with a 17-year-old juvenile in 1983.  According to a statement from the diocese, Byrd was not a priest at the time of the alleged sexual abuse.  The diocese says it is conducting its own investigation and has notified law enforcement. 

The Most Rev. William Medley, bishop for the Diocese of Owensboro, issued the following statement:

“Any allegation of the abuse of a minor is unsettling. The Diocese of Owensboro has offered support to the alleged victim in this case. In a sad moment such as this, it is always incumbent upon us to address any who may have ever suffered abuse within the embrace of the Catholic Church and invite them to come to us that we might offer support and assure that no one else is ever harmed.”

The Messenger-Inquirer reports Byrd’s name was mentioned in a suicide letter left by an Owensboro man who shot himself outside of Blessed Mother Catholic Church in 2008. The church was led by Byrd at the time of the death. The letter discussed sexual abuse, but never accused the pastor of misconduct.  An investigation by the Owensboro Police Department cleared Byrd of any wrongdoing.

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