The number of Kentucky hospitalizations for drug-dependent newborns has continued to skyrocket.

The number of hospitalizations for drug-dependent newborns in the state rose 48 percent last year, compared to 2013.

Those 1,409 hospitalizations last year represent a 50-fold increase from just 28 hospitalizations in 2000.

According to a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine, admissions of drug-dependent babies to U.S. hospitals nearly quadrupled from 2004 through 2013.

Dr. Veeral Tolia, a Texas doctor and lead author of the journal article, says the surge is a result of a recent national opioid abuse crisis.

Researchers say more pregnant women are being prescribed painkillers, which both raises the risk of having a drug-dependent baby and can sometimes lead to abuse and addiction.

Louisville's Needle Exchange has 57 Visitors in First Week

Jun 22, 2015

Health officials in Louisville say 57 intravenous drug users visited the city's needle exchange program during its first week of operation.

A statement from Louisville's Public Health and Wellness department says the program distributed 1,352 clean syringes, disposed of 189 used syringes and tested 12 people for HIV.

Dr. Sarah Moyer, the city's interim public health and wellness director, said called the response strong and encouraging. She says the needle exchange allows health officials to work toward reducing the number of hepatitis C and HIV cases as well as connecting drug users with needed resources.

Louisville became the first city in the state to offer a needle exchange after legislators passed a law allowing local governments to set up programs in which addicts can swap dirty needles for clean ones.


The recent banishment by police of a mentally ill man from Carroll County, Kentucky, to Florida appears to be an unusual occurrence.

But Adam Horine’s mental health struggles are common in a criminal justice system that contains an inordinate number of emotionally troubled men and women.

Indiana state health officials say they’re working to transfer more responsibility to local officials dealing with the response to the HIV outbreak in the southeastern part of the state. Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Jerome Adams and Deputy State Health Commissioner Jennifer Walthall  outlined the transition and long-term sustainability efforts in a news conference Wednesday.

Adams said he wants to make it clear that the Indiana health department is not leaving Scott County, where 170 people have been newly-diagnosed with HIV since December.

“This is a transition to more local control, more local empowerment. But the state will remain partners with Scott County. We’ll continue to be involved with and go down to Scott County for the foreseeable future,” he said.

There are now 170 confirmed HIV cases related to the outbreak. Adam said that 86 percent of those with HIV also have Hepatitis C.

State health officials say more than 80 people exposed to a southern Indiana student with a confirmed case of tuberculosis have now tested positive for the disease.

The State Department of Health said Friday that 85 people have tested positive to TB in skin tests, up from 54 positive tests on Wednesday.

Those individuals who've tested positive for the TB bacteria don't have tuberculosis, but will receive antibiotic treatment so that symptoms don't develop and to prevent the infection from spreading to others.

The 85 individuals who've tested positive to date had contact with a student with a confirmed case at Rock Creek Community Academy in Sellersburg, about 10 miles north of Louisville, Kentucky, or at a church in the area.

That student is isolated and responding well to treatment.

Adam Edelen, Facebook

State Auditor Adam Edelen will host 13 meetings across Kentucky as part of an audit into the estimated thousands of untested rape kits in the state.

During a committee hearing earlier this year, Kentucky State Police officials estimated that the state had as many as 5,000 untested rape kits.

In April, Edelen announced that his office is auditing police and prosecutors to find out precisely how many kits haven’t been tested. His office also aims to find the cause for the backlog.

In a statement on Wednesday, Edelen said the meeting will be an important part of looking into the “complex issues surrounding untested rape kits.”

“I hope to hear from law enforcement, prosecutors, survivors and others as we begin working toward recommending reforms to the system,” Edelen said on Wednesday.

University of Louisville

Researchers at Louisville’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center have found a new way to treat advanced melanoma using the herpes simplex 1 virus.

The genetically modified virusta, limogene laherparepvec, or T-VEC, invades and kills cancer cells by stimulating the body’s immune system. The virus does not harm healthy cells or cause patients to develop cold sores.

Dr. Jason Chesney, deputy director of the cancer center, worked with a team of international scientists to carry out clinical trials and found that patients with advanced melanoma had improved survival.

He said traditional approaches, such as chemotherapy, for advanced cancers are non-curative and only suppress the growth of tumors.

“When we can activate the immune system and cause a tumor to shrink those responses, the shrinkage is durable. It lasts for years and frequently for a lifetime,” he said.

Health insurance companies selling plans on Kentucky's state-run exchange have requested rate increases of as much as 25 percent for 2016.

The biggest proposed increase was 25.1 percent for the Kentucky Health Cooperative, the nonprofit that started with the help of a $58.8 million federal loan and has sold the most private plans of any health insurance company on kynect. The company got a 19.99 percent rate increase for 2015 along with another $65 million federal loan to help it stay solvent.

Anthem Health Plans of Kentucky asked for a 14.6 percent increase, CareSource asked for an 11.83 percent increase while Humana asked for a 5.2 percent increase. WellCare Health asked for a 9.28 percent decrease.

The rate requests are all averages based on the products those companies sell. Individual rates may vary.

Sherry Cooke’s brother, Dennis, died during stint in a nursing home in Louisville. Years ago, Dennis fell from a ladder and sustained serious brain injuries. He was only in his 40s, and spent the next several years bouncing from one nursing home to another.

Cooke, who lives in Pewee Valley, said she kept her brother company and checked on him practically every day. Despite her vigilance, she said he starved to death within seven months of entering a nursing home.

“Time after time I went in and the tube feeding was not running,” said Cooke, who is now a nursing home reform advocate.

Making sure her brother was getting proper care from the nursing home staff was a constant battle, Cooke said. She said she sometimes saw Dennis’ feeding tubes tied in knots and his body covered in bed sores.

She kept records of his time there and eventually took some final pictures of him right before he died. Her brother had entered the nursing home at a healthy weight and died an emaciated man. Dennis—who was 5-foot-7 –died weighing 106 pounds.

Hardin Memorial Hospital

Hardin Memorial Hospital will soon be able to care for more babies born premature and with other health problems. 

The hospital in Elizabethtown is expanding its Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and adding two physicians from Louisville who will practice full-time at HMH.

HMH's Chief Nursing Officer Sharon Wright told WKU Public Radio that having neonatologists around the clock will be a huge asset.

"We see many babies born to mothers who are abusing alcohol or medication," explained Wright.  "Those babies who are going through withdrawal can now stay in our community and stay here for their treatment instead of being transferred to Louisville, so it's not just for premature babies."

Wright knows firsthand the struggles of local parents whose babies must be transferred elsewhere for treatment.  Twenty years ago, she gave birth to twins only 25 weeks into her pregnancy.  The newborns were put on life support and transferred to Kosair Children's Hospital in Louisville.  She said having them away from home made the ordeal that much more difficult.

The expansion at Hardin Memorial Hospital should be complete in September.

A new report says Kentucky and other states could do a better job of placing children in the foster care system with families instead of group care.

The Kids Count report, released Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Kentucky Youth Advocates, says 18 percent of the 7,211 children put into foster care in 2013 in Kentucky were placed in group settings. The data showed 81 percent were placed in family settings. The report says 30 states do a better job of finding family placements for foster children.

Kentucky Youth Advocates said progress has been made over the last year in placements. In addition, the state has begun to offer more in-home services and has changed how children are assessed when they come into the foster care system.

A drug that can reverse the effects of a heroin overdose will soon be available without a prescription in Kentucky.

The state Board of Pharmacy’s emergency regulation went into effect last week to allow pharmacists to dispense naloxone, a drug that’s already used in hospital emergency rooms and by law enforcement agencies.

Van Ingram, head of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, says the hope is to save people who can then be rehabilitated.

“Substance abuse treatment is the end-goal for all individuals who are addicted, but we can’t get them to substance abuse treatment if they aren’t alive.”

Naloxone can be administered by a needle injection, through an auto-injector, and through a intranasal device.

A bill passed this year by state lawmakers allows pharmacists to establish guidelines on how to prescribe the drug.

Heroin Overdose Deaths are Down in Three Kentucky Counties

May 11, 2015

New statistics indicate heroin-related overdose deaths declined in 2014 in three northern Kentucky counties hard hit by the drug epidemic.

Citing the latest statistics from the Kentucky Medical Examiner's office, The Kentucky Enquirer reports that Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties had a combined 64 heroin-related overdose deaths in 2014, down from 72 in 2013.

Leaders of the Northern Kentucky Heroin Impact Response Task Force say the drop shows community efforts are beginning to yield results.

Dr. Tracey Corey, Kentucky's chief medical examiner, released to The Enquirer the latest count of overdose deaths statewide that included heroin in the bloodstream. Her analyst noted that the medical examiner does not get all heroin-related overdose deaths cases, however.

The medical examiner had 233 such deaths in 2014, up from 230 in 2013.

Nationwide, a majority of emergency room physicians report an increase in the number of patients since the Affordable Care Act took effect. 

The law was intended to cover the uninsured and steer more of them into primary care rather than the ER, but that hasn’t happened, according to a report issued last week by the American College of Emergency Physicians. 

"We're seeing many more people coming in now with coverage needing service," said Michael Rust, president of the Kentucky Hospital Association.  "A lot of the folks are having access issues in areas of the country and state where there's not enough primary care physicians to handle everyone that has new coverage."

Kentucky had a doctor shortage even before the ACA took effect.  Compounding the situation is that most of the newly insured in Kentucky are on Medicaid, and some physicians won’t accept Medicaid because of its low reimbursement rates.

Kentucky hospitals have cut their workforce by 10 percent since 2013 as they prepare for an estimated $7 billion in federal cuts by 2024 because of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

The Kentucky Hospital Association detailed the numbers in a new report released Friday. President Michael Rust praised Kentucky officials for implementing the Affordable Care Act and reducing the number of people without health insurance. But the report by the consulting firm Dobson/DaVanzo says Kentucky hospitals will lose more money than they gain from the expanded health insurance coverage.

The report seems to contradict a study from Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear in February that said Kentucky added 12,000 jobs because of the Medicaid expansion. But that report included jobs outside of hospitals.