Health

flickr/Creative Commons/Hakan Dahlstrom

Bowling Green and Warren County planning officials are working on a project to upgrade biking and walking routes and local residents are being asked for input.

Miranda Clements is the Greenways Multimodal Coordinator for the Metropolitan Planning Commission. She said the commission has hired the Nashville firm of RPM Transportation Consultants to help design the improvements.

“Basically, what they are wanting to do is, look at our facilities and what we have and try and understand what the needs are and then identify different opportunities to improve the biking and walking in the community.”

The consultants will use suggestions from residents in developing the plan.

Courtesy Mountain Comprehensive Care

Mike Caudill runs Mountain Comprehensive Care Corporation in five eastern Kentucky counties. Many of his 30,000 patients gained insurance through Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. No one knows if or when those folks might lose coverage. But, Caudill said, the impact could be considerable.

“I don’t want to be a Chicken Little that the sky is falling. On the other hand, neither do I want to stick my head in the sand,” he said. “A lot of it is the unknown. We don’t know what is going to happen.”

Caudill runs federally qualified health centers, providing primary and preventive care such as doctor’s visits and vaccinations. They also support community programs including a day care and a service providing fresh fruits and vegetables to 700 people who are chronically ill. If there are significant changes in his revenue because of a repeal of the ACA, Caudill said, those programs that improve the quality of life in the community would be the first to go.

Pulaski County Alzheimer's Disease Respite Center

An Alzheimer’s day care center that serves people from five Kentucky counties is shutting down after 30 years. The closing of the center in Somerset is due to a cut in state funding.

The Pulaski County Alzheimer’s Disease Respite Center was expecting to get its usual state funding of about $86,000 – that’s about half of its annual budget. Other funding comes from the United Way and local government.  

Executive Director Pat Brinson says she found out about the funding cut at a public meeting just before the start of the current fiscal year and she was stunned.

“I contacted someone that day when I got back in the office, and it was just like, well, they can go somewhere else. Our clients are from a productive generation that did not live on handouts and now we’re forgetting them.”

Mary Meehan

Dona Wells walked through what’s left of the EMW Women’s Clinic in Lexington, Kentucky. Boxes fill what use to be offices. Sterilized medical supplies are in disarray. A light flickers on and off in the back hallway. She doesn’t see a point in fixing it. At 75, she still runs 25 miles a week, but Wells is tired.

“I was going to retire anyway, probably this year,” she said. But I wanted to do it on my terms, not Gov. Bevin’s terms.”

That would be Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, who recently signed two bills into law further restricting abortion services: one requiring an ultrasound as part of abortions and another prohibiting the procedure after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The final straw for Wells came in the form of a new license requirement from the state. Wells has been battling restrictive rules for most of the clinic’s 28 years, but the battle is over now. She’s closing the clinic.

U.S. National Library of Medicine

Incoming freshmen college students would be required to get immunizations and vaccines before starting classes under a bill passed Thursday by a Kentucky House committee.

Some universities require immunizations for incoming freshmen, but only if the student will live in a dorm. The measure would require all students, even those living off campus, to be immunized.

Patty Swiney, former president of the Kentucky Academy of Family Physicians, said the bill is designed to target meningitis, and students who attended private school or were home schooled.

Students attending public school have to be immunized before Kindergarten, 6th grade and the 11th grade for not only meningitis, but the measles, mumps and other illnesses.

Rhonda J Miller

Police officers in Kentucky have an increasingly broad range of training that includes responding to situations where someone has mental health issues.

Owensboro Police Department Lt. Chris Castlen is one of the trainers who took part in a recent crisis intervention workshop in Daviess County for about 30 officers from around the region. 

Castlen says it’s important for officers to be able to recognize mental health issues and respond in a way that will de-escalate the situation.                             

You know, I’ve been a police officer for 20 years and in that time I’ve seen a dramatic increase in the amount of calls where we respond to consumers, as we call people, who are suffering from some sort of mental illness.”

Castlen says police officers spend as much time relating to people who are dealing with some sort of mental illness as they do responding to criminal activity and victims of crime.

John Ted Dagatano

She asked to not be identified. And it’s understandable given the stigma attached to addiction. For this story, we’ll call her “Mary.”

Mary lives in eastern Kentucky and has struggled with an addiction that began with painkillers and progressed to heroin.

“As soon as I opened my eyes, I had to get it,” Mary said. “And even when I did get it, then I had to think of the next way that I was going to get.”

Mary was using when she learned she was pregnant with her first child. She sought treatment but the disease had a tight grip on her.

The child was born dependent on opioids and went through the pains of withdrawal shortly after delivery.

“To see that little boy go through that stuff, you’d think that I would, like, change my life around immediately but I didn’t,” Mary said. “I didn’t want to believe it. I was in complete denial that because of my choices, it was my fault that he was going through that.”

Kentucky Spent $3.7M On Gunshot Victim Care In 2014

Feb 1, 2017
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The average cost of a gunshot victim’s emergency room or hospital stay in Kentucky was $10,000 in 2014. That’s according to a report out from the Urban Institute.

The total costs of these stays was $3.7 million, with the majority coming from inpatient stays.

And most of that care was provided by a government program. In 2014, the majority of gunshot victims in Kentucky hospitals — 68 percent — had their care paid for by public insurance like Medicaid. In 2010, 54 percent of gunshot victims had no insurance at all. Kentucky expanded its Medicaid program to childless adults in 2014 as part of the Affordable Care Act.

As Congress weighs repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the home state of Vice President Mike Pence Tuesday sought to keep its conservative-style Medicaid expansion under the federal health the health law.

Benny Becker

On any given day in Martin County, Kentucky, the water system loses more water to leaks than it delivers to paying customers through their faucets. The water system is under a state investigation for the third time since 2002. Customers complain of frequent service interruptions and discolored water, and their bills come with a notice that drinking the water could increase the risk of cancer.

This is the state of infrastructure in a county that’s mined many millions of dollars worth of coal since the early 1900s, providing the power required for America’s industries and modern comforts. As with many coalfield communities, all the profit and advances the area’s laborers and natural resources made possible haven’t left much evidence of improvement in the local economy and infrastructure.

J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul introduced a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act on Wednesday that would do away with the law’s major reforms, including the requirement to have health insurance or pay a penalty and the ban on insurers refusing coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.

Under the proposal, people wouldn’t be required to get health insurance, nor would employers be required to offer it. Instead, groups of people and small employers could come together to form “independent health pools” to negotiate rates.

Federal Judge Blocks Humana-Aetna Merger

Jan 23, 2017
Stephen George

Humana and Aetna won’t be allowed to merge, according to a ruling from a federal judge out on Monday. Antitrust and competition issues were cited.

The companies will likely appeal the ruling, handed down from Washington, D.C. District Court Judge John Bates. An appeal could take another six months to a year.

Tom Noland, spokesperson for Humana, said the company was prepared for this outcome and is still reviewing the 153-page decision. He also noted that whatever the final outcome, Humana will continue as a company.

“The fact that we have millions of members, most of whom renew every year, shows that we do great work,” Noland said.

Creative Commons

The Appalachian Regional Commission has approved a $100,000 grant for Operation UNITE to continue fighting drug abuse in southern and eastern Kentucky.

U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers says the funding will help expand the organization's impact. The Kentucky Republican says Operation UNITE's approach to curb addiction has become a national model. Rogers helped launch UNITE in 2003.

The competitive grant includes $50,000 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Dimitris Kalogeropoylos

Maurice Ludwick says OxyContin used to be the drug of choice in Louisville. But that changed around 2010, when the drug was formulated to make it impossible to crush and snort.

Then came heroin.

“They’re all efforts to control the people from using, instead of dealing with the problem that they are using. These people just moved to something else,” says Ludwick, director of the Brady Center, a halfway house run by the Healing Place. “Before this it was methamphetamine and before that it was crack cocaine. The underlying issue is addiction.”

Kentucky Has Twice National Rate of Drug-Dependent Babies

Jan 16, 2017
Creative Commons

Research shows Kentucky had more than twice the national rate of drug-dependent babies in 2013.

The Courier-Journal cites a recent research letter in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. The letter says Kentucky's rate was 15.1 cases per 1,000 live births when the U.S. rate was 7.3 in 2013, the most recent comparable year.

Both were up substantially from five years earlier, and Kentucky's rate jumped another 40 percent the following year.

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