Health

The number of overdose deaths related to heroin continues to climb in Kentucky.

A new report from the state’s Office of Drug Control Policy shows that while the number of total overdoses remained steady in 2013, deaths caused by heroin increased by more than 12 percent.

In 2012, 19.6 percent of drug related deaths recorded by the state were due to heroin. That number increased to 31.9 percent in 2013.

Overall, the number of drug deaths in Kentucky leveled off last year, increasing by only three from 2012.

Van Ingram, the Executive Director of Kentucky’s Office of Drug Control Policy, said one way to combat the rising number of heroin deaths would be to increase the availability of narcan, a drug used to halt the effects of opioid overdose. Narcan is currently found in emergency rooms and carried by paramedics.

“We’d like to see it in the hands of police officers, we’d like to see it in the hands of families of people who are at risk, and just as widespread as we can make it, because we can’t get people into treatment and we can’t help them turn their lives around once they’re lost,” Ingram told WKU Public Radio.

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.

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.

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.

WKU

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.”

Report: Kentucky Ranks 10th Lowest for Uninsured

Jul 9, 2014

A new report finds  that Kentucky’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act has dramatically reduced the number of uninsured people in the state.

The report, released Wednesday by the personal finance website WalletHub, finds that Kentucky now ranks 10th in the nation for the lowest number of uninsured individuals, at just under nine percent of the population. That number was over 17 percent before the ACA became law, reflecting an 8 percent drop in the rate in one year’s time.

It also found that about 30 percent of Kentuckians under 65 are enrolled in Medicaid.

Nearly 83,000 Kentuckians have enrolled in new private health insurance plans, and 265,000 have enrolled in  Medicaid as of April 2014.

WKU

The WKU Board of Regents is delaying a vote to privatize the campus Health Services Center.

At a meeting Thursday morning, board members requested that the university provide them with more information about the proposed agreement with Graves Gilbert Clinic. Regents specifically asked for copies of the “request for proposal” that was submitted to those interested in bidding on the health services contract.

The university announced earlier this year it would seek to privatize its health services operation, in an effort to save nearly $1.1 million in the 2014-15 operating budget.

Regent John Ridley of Bowling Green says today’s move by the board should not be seen as a vote of no confidence in either the proposed contract or the school’s administration. Instead, Ridley says the regents want to make sure they’ve had time to thoroughly review the proposal and have any questions answered before a vote is taken.

“The issue is that we have a board responsibility when we’re about to enter into a contractual arrangement, and if anyone has a question we need to get it answered, and then everybody’s happy,” Ridley said after the meeting.

Faculty Regent Dr. Patti Minter said it’s important that the regents make sure any and all concerns are addressed before conducting a vote on such an important matter.

Kevin Willis

Local animal shelters are warning pet owners to take extra precautions heading into the Fourth of July holiday. The loud sounds and flashing lights associated with fireworks can frighten and disorient pets, and they often bolt from their owners or yard trying to get away from the noise.

“The best thing to do is to put them in an interior room, somewhere where there isn’t a window,” says Kendall Paul, executive director of the Vanderburgh Humane Society. “Dogs have been known to bust out screens, or even bust out glass windows if they’re that freaked out about the noise and light.”

Paul advises dog owners to leave their pets at home during holiday events featuring loud noises like fireworks.

For animal shelters around the country, the coming days are usually extremely busy ones.

“Usually the business day following the Fourth of July is one of our busiest days for lost and found reports for animals,” Paul told WKU Public Radio. “So make sure that your animal has proper identification on. We highly recommend that you microchip your animal. We also recommend that they wear collars with tags that have your cell phone number on it.”

Paul says having your personal phone number on the tag is much better than having the number of the pet’s veterinarian or shelter on it. If the pet is lost after hours, having an owner's phone number increases the chances of getting the animal back to its owner sooner.

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