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

Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy

One of the most significant pieces of legislation to come out of this year’s General Assembly session aims to curtail Kentucky’s heroin epidemic.

The bill, which Governor Steve Beshear signed into law Wednesday, toughens penalties for traffickers and increases treatment options for addicts. 

Executive Director Van Ingram in the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy is glad a needle exchange program made it into the final bill.

"We have Hepatitis C rates that are skyrocketing in this state," Ingram told WKU Public Radio.  "The good news is that there's treatment for Hepatitis C now.  The bad news is it's $100,000 per patient and a majority of those patients are on Medicaid," he added.  "This is important.  If we can reduce Hepatitis C exposure, we save tons of money and lives, as well."

Some state lawmakers criticized the needle exchange component of the law, arguing it sent the wrong message and might encourage more drug use.

Local health departments would have the option of creating needles exchanges, allowing addicts to trade out dirty needles for clean ones.  Health departments would first need approval from city and county governments. 

Ingram says 2014 data isn’t available yet, but he expects about 30 percent of overdoses deaths in Kentucky were heroin-related.  That’s compared to three years ago when about five percent of overdose deaths were the result of heroin use.

WKU

WKU is expanding its international reach to the Arctic. 

In simultaneous ceremonies Monday, WKU and the University of Akurreyri in Iceland signed an academic and research agreement which creates the North Atlantic Climate Change Collaboration. 

WKU President Dr. Gary Ransdell spoke at a live news conference from Iceland.

"We want at WKU our faculty and students to be here, to learn and observe, to touch and feel firsthand, and experience the effects of climate change, and they will be part of the solution," said Ransdell.

The collaboration grew out of a climate change study abroad course last summer in Iceland.  Another group of WKU faculty and students will return to Iceland in June.

A virtual college fair with take place this week for students interested in transferring their credits or associate degrees to WKU. 

Transfer Madness will allow students to chat online with advisers and download information.

Chris Jensen, associate director of the Academic Advising and Retention Center at WKU, says the event is aimed at making the transfer process less intimidating.

"We will have representatives from advising, our distance learning programs, our financial aid office, as well as admissions online answering questions for students make it an easier process to be able to come to WKU to continue their degree."

The virtual fair will be held from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Mar. 26.  Registration can be completed online at www.transfermadness.org

WKU is waiving application fees for students who participate.

Kentucky’s unemployment rate last month plunged to 5.2 percent, the lowest rate in ten years.  It was a decrease from January’s jobless rate of 5.7 percent. 

Seven of the state’s 11 job sectors saw gains in February.  One of the most encouraging signs is the rebound in the construction sector.

"Construction had gone down so much during the recession and we're seeing gains in that sector," says Kim Saylor Brannock, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet. "We had 1.200 more jobs in February than we did in January.  If you look at February a year ago, we've got 5,700 more jobs."

The professional and business services sector had the most gains last month.  

February was the seventh straight month where jobless rates in Kentucky have been lower than the national average.

Boone County has become the first county in northern Kentucky to pass a local right-to-work law. 

The fiscal court voted unanimously Tuesday night to join ten other Kentucky counties in approving the controversial measures, which prohibit mandatory union membership as a condition of employment. 

Meanwhile, Oldham County government has voted to table its right-to-work ordinance until a federal lawsuit is resolved.  A group of labor unions has a suit pending against Hardin County for passing a similar ordinance. 

City of Owensboro

A new emergency alert system could be coming to Daviess County. 

The smartphone app Ping4 would allow emergency officials to send out messages to people in a specific area during outdoor events like concerts or fireworks shows. 

Daviess County Deputy Emergency Management Director John Clouse says the alerts could be anything from severe weather to a missing child.

"We have several different festivals and things going on down at Smothers Park and on Second Street," notes Clouse.  "This would give us the opportunity should a missing child come up to alert everyone in that area and give a general description of what the child was wearing and where they were last seen."

Any smartphone would receive the alerts without the owner downloading the app. 

Clouse says the system was tested last year at the music festival ROMP and went well.  He adds the system could be operational in days once the Daviess County Fiscal Court approves a contract with the app manufacturer.

LRC Public Information

A state lawmaker from eastern Kentucky has joined a crowded field for State Treasurer.

Representative Rick Nelson of Bell County is seeking the office being vacated by term-limited Todd Hollenbach.

Nelson believes one of the greatest responsibilities of the State Treasurer is sitting on the board of the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System, which is woefully under-funded.

"There's been so many folks that's retired, it's more than even good investments can handle," Nelson told WKU Public Radio.  "It's an issue I think that's going to get worse even if the economy improves."

Representative Nelson recently supported a House measure to borrow $3.3 billion dollars to shore up the pension system, but the Senate held off and asked for more time to study the issue.

Nelson will face off against fellow Democrats Jim Glenn, Neville Blakemore, Richard Henderson, and Daniel Grossberg.

In the Republican field, the candidates for State Treasurer are Allison Ball, Kenny Imes, and Jon Larson.

The Kentucky Community and Technical College System is freezing tuition at current rates for the 2015-16 academic year. 

The Board of Regents previously approved a $3 per credit hour increase for next year. The board’s decision will keep rates at $147 per credit hour for in-state students, $294 per credit hour for out-of-state students from contiguous counties, and $515 per credit hour for all other out-of-state students.

President Jay Box says the tuition relief comes despite KCTCS receiving less state funding.

"We've had ongoing increases especially since 2008 when the General Assembly decided to start reducing our state appropriations," Box told WKU Public Radio.  "Since 2008, we've lost $38 million or 17% of state appropriations coming our way."

KCTCS has seen enrollment an enrollment decrease since 2011, which Dr. Box attributes to more people going back to work following the recession.

Dr. Box says the 16 KCTCS campuses in Kentucky remain committed to being the most affordable option for higher education in the state.

A national study finds Kentucky has the second-highest per-capita rate in the country of inappropriate behavior between school employees and students.

The research was conducted by Terry Abbott, a former chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Education. His firm, Drive West Communications, examined media reports in every state daily in 2014. He tracked 22 cases in Kentucky last year.

Just as it is nationwide, Abbott found the problem of is mostly among male school employees. Abbott says the men were an average age of 41.

"Some people assume a lot of the teachers involved in these cases are kids right out of college almost the same age as the students they're teaching and they don't know any better.  That's simple not true," Abbott told WKU Public Radio.  "For the most part, these are educators who have a decade or more of experience in the classroom."

Abbott’s study also revealed that private messages through social media and text messaging were involved in 36 percent of the cases in Kentucky. 

The Environmental Protection Agency has discovered high levels of arsenic on a property in Ohio County.

Signs have been posted and a gate put up to keep people away from the site on Shinkle Chapel Road.  Ohio County Judge-Executive David Johnston says a former property owner initiated the probe.

"The lady who lived there became sick and her animals became sick.  She was a dog breed," Johnston tells WKU Public Radio.  "She started asking questions and reported it to the federal EPA."

While he only learned of the contamination two months ago, Johnston says the poison had been on the site since the 1940s.

"Someone brought in several drums of arsenic.  We don't know what the purpose of it was, but it was stored in a barn, which burned down seven years ago or so," Johnston adds.  "It wasn't a threat until then, but it got into a large area and killed all the trees on a few acres of land."

Soil samples revealed extremely high concentrations of the toxic element.  The poison hasn’t contaminated any water supplies. The federal EPA will be overseeing the cleanup.

Pages