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. 

Ways to Connect

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.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Brent Moore

A number of remembrances are being held throughout the country in honor of those who died over the weekend in the mass shooting in Orlando. 

A prayer service will take place Monday evening at The Presbyterian Church in Bowling Green.  Pastor Matthew Covington says some of the church’s members are openly gay. He hopes they don’t feel singled out by the attack.

"All of us in the world needs God's mercy and care, and to single them out as a certain group that deserves  punishment or rebuke is short-sided," Covington told WKU Public Radio.  "This is something that should not have happened, and it is a symbol of brokenness in our community and world."

Covington says he believes the shooting was more than an attack on gays, but an attack on America.  

The service in Bowling Green is open to the public and will start at 6:30 p.m. at The Presbyterian Church on State Street.

St. Catharine College

Several Kentucky colleges and universities are courting students from St. Catherine College in Springfield.

Citing debt and declining enrollment, the school announced this month that it will close at the end of July.

Among the schools reaching out to the students is Brescia University in Owensboro.  Vice President for Enrollment Management Chris Houk says Brescia and St. Catharine have many things in common.

"We compete in the same athletic conference within the NAIA," explained Houk.  "While Brescia University is more of an urban campus, our day program population is very similar in size and we offer very similar programs to those students."

Brescia and St. Catharine are also both Catholic universities. 

Brecia is offering its Catholic Connections Grant to all St. Catharine students, regardless of their religious affiliation.  The grant allows Catholic students, with the recommendation of their parish, to receive half-price tuition.  Brescia is also holding a reception for prospective students Wednesday evening in Frankfort.

National Park Service

Imagine hearing music reverberating through caves or echoing across mountains.  This summer, an ensemble of musicians from the Eastman School of Music in New York will be visiting national parks throughout the country and performing in the natural venues.   It's part of the national park service's 100th anniversary.

The first stop on the tour is Mammoth Cave National Park in south central Kentucky.  Emlyn Johnson is directing the project called Music in the American Wild.  She visited the park in December to scout out the venue and test the acoustics.

"I don’t think I had ever been in a cave before.  I was just amazed," Johnson told WKU Public Radio.  "I got to play my flute in some of the big caverns and it was like playing in a glorious concert hall.”

Credit J. Stephen Conn / Flickr (Creative Commons License)

An effort is underway in Kentucky to replace a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis in the Capitol Rotunda with a tribute to boxing legend MuhammadAli. 

Lexington attorney and former State Treasurer Jonathan Miller has begun an online petition seeking the change.  Miller says Ali’s recent death has more people talking about his place in history. 

"People have been reminded that he wasn't just a boxer, but indeed made a profound influence on American policy," Miller told WKU Public Radio.  "They've also been reminded that he's a Kentuckian.  He was born here, grew up here, and will rest in peace here."

So far, about 600 Kentuckians have signed the petition which Miller plans to deliver to Governor Matt Bevin and legislative leaders. 

While several lawmakers supported an attempt to remove the Davis statue from the Capitol last summer, the state Historic Properties Commission voted to leave the statue in place.

WKU Public Radio is carrying live coverage of Ali’s memorial service in Louisville Friday. You can hear that coverage from 1:00-3:00 p.m. central, 2:00-4:00 p.m. eastern time.

Creative Commons

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture is expecting a busier-than-usual mosquito spraying season.

While state officials have reported only a handful of infections, fears of the Zika virus have the department ramping up operations.

Keith Rogers, chief of staff for Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, says the department has enough pesticides to last through the summer.

“We feel like we’ve purchased enough product, and have the resources, to certainly get us through late summer. If we do see an increase need in spring, or an increase in mosquito population, we will have the resources to purchase additional products.”

Rogers says despite budget cuts, the agriculture department will have enough funding for mosquito pesticides even if it has to make reductions in other areas.

The typical spraying season is June through August.

Lisa Autry

The process is moving forward to find the next president for Western Kentucky University.

Consultants with Isaacson, Miller, the firm hired to help in the search, have been on campus this week meeting with university leaders.  They met Friday afternoon with members of the search committee on what qualities they are looking for in the school’s next leader.

The firm will begin submitting names for consideration to the search committee in September.  Members then plan to send three to five finalists to the full board of regents by December 1.  Chairman Phillip Bale says the finalists’ names will not likely be made public.

"If it's someone that says 'Look, if I'm not the person that's selected, I'm going to lose my job, so you either maintain confidentiality or drop me out,' then we're going to maintain confidentiality," Bale told WKU Public Radio.  "Our objective is to find and get the best person we can, and anything that jeopardizes that, we will avoid."

The board is expected to make its presidential selection by March 2017.

Dr. Ransdell’s retirement is effective June 30, 2017. 

Saving Liberty DH4

Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War I.

Friends of Jenny, a group of volunteers in Kentucky and Tennessee, is working to preserve a piece of that history by purchasing the last remaining fuselage of a DeHavilland DH4, known as the Liberty Plane.  The aircraft was the first fighter plane manufactured in the U.S. for the war.

Army veteran and pilot Dorian Walker of Bowling Green says once the fuselage is purchased, the Liberty will be reconstructed and placed back into flying status.

"Four of the eight medals of honor awarded for air service in World War I were awarded to DH4 crews," Walker told WKU Public Radio.  "It's an amazing story and we're trying to remember those folks that we've long since forgotten."

Once restored, the Liberty Plane will be taken on a nationwide tour in 2017 alongside the Jenny, which was the nation’s first military trainer.

A Kickstarter campaign is underway through next Tuesday to raise $60,000.

A Franklin physician has admitted to illegally prescribing pain and anti-anxiety medicine that resulted in two deaths.

Roy Reynolds pleaded guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Bowling Green to charges that he illegally prescribed controlled substances outside the course of professional medical practice and without a legitimate medical purpose. 

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Kentucky, Reynolds had two patients under his care die from drug overdoses.  One was a 46-year-old man with a history of illegal drug use and psychiatric issues that were documented in his patient charts.  Two days prior to his death, Dr. Reynolds prescribed him 180 Oxycodone pills and 90 Xanax tablets. 

WKU

Students applying to Western Kentucky University will need a higher score on one of their entrance exams.  

The College Board, the group that administers the SAT, has redesigned the test.  Due to the changes, the new minimum score for acceptance at WKU is a 1020.  The accepted score on the old test was a 940. 

Jace Lux, director of admissions and recruitment at WKU, says the higher score doesn’t mean the test is harder to take.

"I think it's one of those cases where it's not necessarily harder, but just different.  I think it's a response to some of the different methods of teaching that students are experiencing in high schools now and some of the ways they're prepared for college."

The new required score will apply to students who took the SAT after March 1 of this year.  The old score will continue to be accepted if students took the SAT prior to March 1.

A passing SAT score is one of several ways students can be admitted to WKU.  The ACT is the entrance exam most widely used for college admission in Kentucky.

Six months after being elected, a poll gives Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin one of the lowest approval ratings in the country. 

The survey by Morning Consult shows Republican Governor Matt Bevin with a 33 percent approval rating.  Bevin is ranked in the bottom ten among the nation’s governors.  That’s a stark contrast to former Governor Steve Beshear’s approval rating of 57 percent before he left office. 

Job performance ranking vary in surrounding states.  Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam enjoys 63 percent approval among respondents in his state.  Indiana Governor Mike Pence has a 48 percent approval rating among Hoosiers, and 61 percent of Ohio voters approve of the job Governor John Kasich is doing. 

Morning Consult is a non-partisan media and technology company.  Its survey on the job approval of governors was taken between January and early May.

Lisa Autry

A standing-room-only crowd packed into the Bowling Green Schools’ Professional Learning and Development Center on Friday night for a town hall on the proposed resettlement of Syrian refugees.  Heated exchanges between opposing sides last two hours. 

Albert Mbanfu, executive director of the International Center of Kentucky, explained the extensive screening process that takes 18-24 months before refugees are approved for resettlement in the U.S.  

Mbanfu introduced Major General Allen Youngman, a Bowling Green resident and former Adjutant General of Kentucky.  Youngman tried to put to rest fears of terrorism by explaining that the government’s current vetting process did not exist on September 11, 2001, the date of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.  The screening process, he said, has become much more stringent in the past decade.

“I would not have been able to tell you ten years ago that I had a lot of confidence in the system.  We have things in place today that we didn’t have just a few years ago,” Youngman remarked.  “I feel pretty good about it.  Is it foolproof?  No.”

Youngman said anyone wanting to harm the U.S. would likely not go through the refugee resettlement program, but instead through a student or tourist visa.

Pages