A western Kentucky dermatologist says he sees multiple cases of skin cancer a day as the U.S. Surgeon General is warning of a steady increase of people with the disease.

An industrial hemp official is working to clear up some confusion about the plant’s oils and extracts and their uses as Kentucky researchers work toward finding uses for potential treatments with cannabidiol, or CBD.

Hemp Industries Association Executive Director Eric Steenstra says the non-profit trade group has received several calls from customers who have bought hemp oil at health stores and want to know if their purchase has CBD in them.

This post was updated at 3 p.m. ET:

House and Senate negotiators unveiled a $17 billion plan Monday to address the crisis in care for veterans.

The agreement would provide $10 billion to allow veterans to be treated outside the Veterans Affairs system, if they've had trouble getting appointments within it. More than two dozen clinics would be leased around the country, with $5 billion spent to hire additional doctors, nurses and other medical personnel at the VA.

In the surgery wing of Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center named after her late husband, Nedra Thomas has been putting smiles on children's faces for over two decades.

Thomas began making sock monkeys to give to young patients heading into surgery at the Leithfield hospital. The project grew over the years and she now has a small team of volunteers who help in the effort. The group has become like a second family to the members, who look out for one another during sickness and loss.

WKU Public Radio photojournalist Abbey Oldham paid a visit to Leitchfield to meet with Thomas and learn about how the sock monkey program impacts both patients and volunteers.

Third Baptist of Owensboro

A new law that went into effect this week in Kentucky is changing the way the state views faith-based mental health counselors. Kentucky is now licensing such counselors, which means their services will be covered by insurance policies.

One of the faith-based counselors impacted by the new law is Joe Bob Pierce, who works with Cornerstone Counseling in Owensboro. He says the change in state law could encourage potential clients who might have been put off by having to foot the entire bill.

“Clients that otherwise might have to pay out-of-pocket to see a pastoral counselor now will be provided a bit of subsidy, or help, or in some cases their entire fee for counseling will be handled by the insurance company.”

Pierce’s counseling service is located inside Third Baptist Church in Owensboro. He says while many of his clients are deeply rooted in traditional Baptist beliefs, he has also counseled individuals who don’t claim any religious affiliation.

He says his clients are interested in receiving help from someone who will take into account the spiritual aspects of their lives,

“It may not necessarily be a dimension that is religious in terms of being attached to a particular faith. But I think it’s very much a part of our make-up as people.”

To be licensed by the state, pastoral counselors must have a master’s degree in the field and meet the same qualifications as other licensed counselors.

Kentucky Dept. of Agriculture

WKU is beginning to prepare its employees for likely changes to the school’s health plan. At a forum Wednesday afternoon, representatives from the school’s Human Resources Department told workers that WKU’s self-funded model is coming under significant strain.

The school says it saw a 13.3 percent increase in medical expenses in 2013 compared to the previous year, with expenses exceeding revenue by more than $2 million.

WKU is predicting that unless changes are made, the school’s health plan expenses could increase by 8 to 10 percent in 2015.

No definitive announcement was made, however, about whether employee premiums or deductibles will be increasing. Speaking to WKU Public Radio after the forum, Assistant Director of Human Resources Kari Aikins described the school’s timeline for announcing any changes.

“We’re going to continue to evaluate and model these options financially over the next month, month-and-a-half, and then start making some formalized recommendations to our leadership and President--through our benefits committee--and hopefully have something set in stone by the end of August,” Aikens said.

Kevin Willis

Some retired military veterans are asking Kentucky lawmakers to commit funding for a new long-term care facility for veterans that would be located in Bowling Green.

The commonwealth currently has only three such facilities, with a fourth veterans nursing home scheduled to open next summer in Hardin County.

Dr. Ray Biggerstaff served in Vietnam as a Captain with the 101st Airborne Division, based in Fort Campbell. He told state lawmakers in Frankfort that the number of veterans in the south-central Kentucky region makes Warren County a logical location for a long-term care operation.

“When we take a look at the demographic data for Bowling Green and the Barren River Area Development District, we’re looking at a total of 20,000 veterans in that particular area. Surrounding the area, we have an additional 22,000 veterans that are in the perimeter,” said Biggerstaff.

Biggerstaff said he also thought a long-term care facility for veterans in southern Kentucky could attract veterans who live in northern Tennessee.

In testimony before a joint committee on State Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection, Biggerstaff said backers of the proposed veteran’s nursing home in Warren County have identified a 30-acre site off I-65 near the Kentucky Transpark as a possible location for the facility.

The nursing home being built in Hardin County will sit on 195 acres of land donated by the Defense Department, and feature a dozen ten-person homes providing full nursing services to 120 veterans. It’s scheduled to open next June.

Kentucky’s three nursing homes for veterans currently in operation are in Hopkins, Jessamine, and Perry counties.

Kentucky lawmakers have been discussing the causes of post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans, and how sexual assault in the military plays a factor.

Dr. Mary Sweeney was among a team of physicians from the Robley Rex Veterans Affairs hospital in Louisville who recently testified before a joint Committee on the Military, Veterans Affairs and Public Safety about PTSD treatment efforts.

“Fifty percent of people who experience a rape go on to get PTSD. The numbers are lower for combat. Vietnam veterans, probably about 30 percent at some point in their life. Gulf War  veterans, perhaps 10 percent. The numbers are still out in the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.”

Many veterans have lobbied Frankfort in support of medical marijuana as a treatment for their symptoms.

About 18,500 veterans in Kentucky suffer from PTSD. Nationwide, that number is 350,000.

Medical Marijuana for Veterans?

Kentucky lawmakers also heard testimony from those advocating for the legalization of medical marijuana as a way for veterans to cope with the impact of PTSD and physical ailments related to their military service.

A new poll finds a majority of Kentuckians aren’t happy with the Affordable Care Act, but they do like benefits the legislation made possible.

According to the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky study released Thursday, this disconnect is consistent throughout the state, although people in the more urban areas—Lexington and Louisville—were at least nearly 10 percent more favorable of the ACA.

The foundation’s President Susan Zepeda says the poll found nearly half of people disapprove of the ACA while nearly 4 out of 5 like one of the benefits.

“The biggest difference we found was the number of Kentuckians who strongly supported the expansion of Medicaid that was made possible by the Affordable Care Act,” she said.

Zepeda adds this could be good or bad news for some.


The WKU Board of Regents has voted to privatize the campus Health Services center. Graves Gilbert Clinic will take over operations ahead of the fall semester.

The idea of giving up control of the health center was first announced by WKU President Gary Ransdell in March. Privatizing the health center that serves students, faculty, and staff gave the school nearly $1.1 million in relief for the budget that went into effect July 1.

None of the three doctors or one nurse practitioner currently employed by the school will be kept on after the health center changes management.

WKU Vice President for Finance and Administration said at Thursday morning's regents meeting that Graves Gilbert will make decisions on whether or not to retain the center's remaining employees within 10 days of the contract being finalized.

Mead added both parties have a lot to do in a short amount of time.

“We’ll be moving into helping Graves Gilbert transition to opening on Aug. 1. We want to facilitate Graves Gilbert’s family practitioners to be able to meet our leadership on campus, and start having the campus understand what services are going to be provided at our on-campus facility.”