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 Cabinet for Health and Family Services

Kentuckians wanting to buy health insurance on the federal exchange will have fewer options and higher costs.

Starting Tuesday, enrollees will apply for coverage at www.healthcare.gov instead of the state-based exchange known as Kynect.  Anthem will be the only insurance provider, and the company will offer customers four plans.

Tonya Wooton works for Community Action of Southern Kentucky, and helps enrollees navigate the online application process. She says while premium increases are expected, they should be offset by subsidies.

"People also need to understand that if premiums increase and you're getting payment assistance, then you're payment assistance is also going to increase, so you may not feel it as much as you think you will," Wooton told WKU Public Radio.

Discounts and payment assistance are based on income.

Republican Governor Matt Bevin’s administration says the Affordable Care Act has caused insurers to pull out of exchange markets across the country, with those that stayed offering higher rates.

Open enrollment on the federal exchange is November 1-January 31, 2017.  Consumers must enroll in a plan by December 15 if they want coverage to begin January 1.

A southern Indiana community is experiencing a large jump in the number of fatal heroin overdoses. 

Vanderburgh County is reporting 22 deaths this year—that’s triple the number from 2015.  The victims’ ages have ranged from the early 20s to late 50s. 

Chief Deputy Coroner Steve Lockyear says more people in the Evansville region are now dying from heroin overdoses than from prescription drugs.

"I think everybody is shocked that heroin has made such a large presence in this area," Lockyear told WKU Public Radio.  "I think they've thought it to be a drug from the alleys of New York City or Chicago and not something that would strike middle America, but it has definitely come here and come here in a big way."

Many of the people who have died this year from heroin overdoses also had Fentanyl in their system.  Fentanyl is another powerful opioid often added to heroin to increase its potency.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Erin Pettigrew

Workers with Kentucky’s largest employer are being told to dress a little more appropriately. 

A new dress code for executive branch workers that went into effect this month bans flip flops, midriff shirts, large commercial logos, and offensive language. 

David Smith, executive director of the Kentucky Association of State Employees, says he supports the dress code if applied for the right reasons.

"Other the other had though, it could be they don't like the fact you bought that shirt because that brand is sold at Wal-Mart. You could potentially, as an employee, be disciplined up to and including termination, depending upon their interpretation of the policy and the severity of the violation of the policy," Smith told WKU Public Radio.  "That gives us grave concern."

The new policy that took effect this month applies to about 31,000 executive branch workers, but they may not all be affected the same.  The Personnel and Labor Cabinets have implemented more stringent dress code policies.

Lisa Autry

October is Farm to School Month in Kentucky and the state agriculture department is hoping to expand the number of schools using locally produced foods. 

Seventy-seven school districts already have programs in place to buy local foods.  Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles says local chefs play an important role too.

"These chefs help train food preparers to go buy food from farmers' markets or farmers," Quarles told WKU Public Radio.  "They learn how to properly store it and manage it , and also, it makes their recipes a little more enjoyable."

A grant program allows the agriculture department to contract with nine chefs and each one is assigned to a region of the state.  The goal is to bring fresh, healthy foods to school cafeterias while opening up new markets for farmers.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Bill Rogers

A manufacturer of non-cigarette tobacco products is increasing its footprint in Owensboro. 

Swedish Match opened its new $3.5 million, 10,000-square-foot expansion Tuesday at the company’s current location.  The expansion will increase product research and testing capabilities. 

Thord Hassler, Vice President for Research and Development, says despite efforts in the U.S. to discourage smoking, the use of tobacco-related products remains consistent.

"There's been a gradual shift away from cigarettes to other products," Hassler told WKU Public Radio.  "I think all in all, in the U.S., there's a slight decline year by year, but it's very slow."

The expansion of the company’s research and development department is not expected to create jobs, but could lead to the creation of new products. The company has a current workforce of 355 in Owensboro.

Swedish Match produces chewing tobacco, cigars, and matches.

Western Kentucky University will share in a $47 million grant to improve training for principals.  WKU is one of seven schools across the country selected by The Wallace Foundation to participate in the initiative. 

Dr. Marguerita Desander, head of the Department of Educational Administration, Leadership, and Research at WKU, said good leadership is the foundation for student achievement.

"Every school is different.  Every community is different," Desander told WKU Public Radio.  "Having leaders who are adequately prepared for the things that are unique about communities is so important to ensure that our students get the best possible education they can."

Dr. Desander says many districts lack the capacity to train principals in how to take on challenges such as poverty, diversity, and curriculum. 

During the four-year initiative, WKU will bring together all 11 principal preparation programs in Kentucky and help revise curriculum by examining the changing needs of schools and their leaders.  WKU will also partner with the Green River Regional Educational Cooperative and the Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board.

Communities around Fort Knox have launched a capital campaign to help grow the Hardin County army post and the regional economy. 

A new partnership called the Knox Regional Development Alliance was announced Thursday in Elizabethtown.  Co-chairman Ray Springsteen said part of the goal is to bring new missions to the post and retain existing ones.

"A few years ago, we certainly had some contraction in the military, and in some cases, this is driven by that," Springsteen told WKU Public Radio.  "Instead of us reacting when there's a problem, someone is getting up every day, going out, and finding ways to protect this incredible asset."

Another goal of the alliance is to attract and retain military-related businesses to Hardin, Meade, Larue, Bullitt, and Jefferson counties.

Orchestra Kentucky

Orchestra Kentucky has hired a full-time executive director for the first time in 16 years.  Scott Watkins was introduced during a news conference Monday at the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center in Bowling Green. 

Watkins credits the local orchestra with re-inventing classical music.

"In a day and age when you're losing a lot of classical music lovers, we're trying to reinvigorate and bring new people to orchestra," Watkins told WKU Public Radio.  "We bring in new ideas, new shows and new programming, which is something this orchestra does very well already."

Watkins comes to Bowling Green from El Dorado, Arkansas where he headed the South Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.  Before that, he managed the Dallas Symphony and served in leadership roles at Symphony Arlington, Corpus Christi Symphony, and the Las Colinas Symphony.

He says he’d like to continue efforts to introduce a new breed of classical music to the public while also increasing the budget and audience for Orchestra Kentucky. 

Watkins replaces Darrell Edwards who retired in August.

WKU

The Gatton Academy at Western Kentucky University is celebrating its 10th year with the largest class yet.  The academy is a residential high school for gifted juniors and seniors pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and math. The program is preparing to increase its number of students from 160 to 190.

Only 24 percent of Gatton’s most recent graduates continued their education at WKU. Gatton Director Lynette Breedlove says most students, historically, have transferred to other universities to finish their degrees.

“About 33 percent of students historically have stayed at WKU. About 30 percent have gone to UK, about 12 percent to U of L. And the rest of the students have gone hither and yon. Probably the next largest group is about 4 percent going to Vandy,” Breedlove said.

John Null, WKMS

As the Bowling Green Police Department prepares to equip its officers with body cameras, the police chief of a neighboring community is praising the technology. The Russellville Police Department began using body cameras in 2013.  Police Chief Victor Shifflett said the cameras have made officers more accountable, while also changing the public’s behavior toward the police.

“We actually arrested and charged a couple of people for false statements that they’ve made against police officers, and since we’ve done that, that’s when the complaints have really dropped off. They’ve made just blatantly false accusations about the officer, and then when we play the video, it’s just completely opposite,” Shifflett said.

The police chief said there have been fewer complaints against Russellville police officers since they began using the body cameras.  He said the technology has prevented possible lawsuits against the Russellville Police Department. In one case, a woman under arrest claimed an officer inappropriately touched her while conducting a search. Shifflett says the video proved otherwise.

A report from the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services shows most of the children who were abused or neglected in the past year suffered at the hands of adults. 

An annual report on child fatalities and near fatalities shows parents were the most frequent abusers.  Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, says most of the children who died were in families that were under investigation or had prior involvement with the Department for Community Based Services.

"That is not to place blame on any individual worker because they have heavy caseloads and lots of pressures, but in a majority of these cases, they were not surprises," Brooks told WKU Public Radio.  "We have to speed up DCBS response and investigations.  We can't afford for kids to be in danger and action is so slow that a fatality results because of it."

At least nine Kentucky children died in the past year from abuse or neglect, but the number is preliminary because of pending cases. 

More than 40 children suffered life-threatening injuries.  Most of them were under the age of three.

Ryland Barton

Kentucky’s Attorney General is accusing Governor Matt Bevin of “dragging his feet” on returning millions of dollars to the state’s colleges and universities. 

Western Kentucky University is waiting on about $1.5 million that the school is owed following last week’s state Supreme Court ruling.  During a visit Monday to WKU, Attorney General Andy Beshear said the Governor has yet to release $18 million that was withheld from the state’s colleges and universities.

"The funds are sitting in a special account, so there's no reason to delay," Beshear told WKU Public Radio.  "This governor's been about cutting the red tape and the bureaucracy, so let's cut the red tape, the bureaucracy, and provide those funds."

The high court ruled that Governor Bevin did not have the authority to cut university budgets without a budget shortfall. 

The governor has said his office is “looking at our options.”  He has 20 days to ask the Supreme Court to re-consider the case.  Beshear said the outcome is unlikely to change given the 5-2 ruling.

Lisa Autry

Following some high-profile rape cases across the nation, Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear says Kentucky’s college campuses have not been exempt from sexual violence. 

Beshear was at Western Kentucky University Monday to kick off Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October.  He spoke of efforts underway to prevent sexual assault on the state’s campuses. 

Beshear's office, in May, transferred $4.5 million to the Kentucky State Police crime lab to ease a backlog of untested rape kits. Beshear called it the most profound moment yet during his nine months in office.

"Why?  Because that was every dollar, quarter, dime, nickel, and penny that they said they needed to hire more people, train them, and buy more equipment so that this commonwealth would never ever have a rape kit backlog again," remarked Beshear.

Beshear said his office is also providing training this week to circuit clerks on how to better handle domestic violence cases in the courts.  Next month, prosecutors, law enforcement, and victim advocates will be trained on how to help prevent domestic violence fatalities. 

Voters in Barren County will go to the polls Tuesday and decide whether to expand alcohol sales. 

Residents on both sides of the issue are working to influence voters ahead of the local option election.  Michael Richey formed a group called Citizens for a Drug and Alcohol-Free Barren County.   As a church pastor, Richey says he has seen the negative effects  alcohol can have on families and communities.

"Statistics are out there that show when alcohol comes into a community crime, tickets, and DUI are known to rise," Richey told WKU Public Radio.

Tim Brown, with the citizens group Move Barren County Forward, says county-wide sales will keep locals from driving to Bowling Green for alcohol and driving back home intoxicated.  Brown attributes a recent increase in local D-U-I's with a greater police presence--not relaxed alcohol sales.

"In Glasgow, a lot of restaurants are treated like bars.  People hang out there and have a good time, and the police watch those places," Brown commented.  "That's one of the reasons DUIs have gone up.  They know where people are drinking.  Before, we didn't know."

Certain restaurants in Glasgow already served alcohol while Cave City allows packaged sales in stores and by-the-drink in restaurants.

WFPL

The U.S. Senate has blocked a measure that would have halted the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia. 

Kentucky Republican Rand Paul was one of four lawmakers who forced a vote on the issue.

On a 71-27 vote, U.S. Senators approved continuing to support Saudi Arabia, including the sale of more than a billion dollars in Abrams tanks and other military equipment. 

Senator Paul has called Saudi Arabia an uncertain ally with an abysmal human rights record. 

While the resolution didn't pass, Paul acknowledged the debate was significant in and of itself.

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