- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 20, 2016

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:


July 19

Lexington Herald-Leader on needle exchange programs:

A member of the board that oversees his county’s health department, Carter County Judge-Executive Mike Malone had worries when health department officials brought up the idea of giving clean needles to IV drug users.

Like many people, especially politicians, he worried that handing out needles might appear to be encouraging illicit drug use. But now he supports the program. “The more you learn about it, the more you’ll understand it’s the right thing to do,” Malone, a Republican, told reporter Bill Estep.

Carter County is one of 13 locations in Kentucky that have either approved or begun operating needle exchanges since they were legalized last year by the General Assembly in a wide-ranging effort to address heroin abuse in the state.

That’s a lot of progress in a short time but as Estep’s story Sunday explained, to avoid an epidemic of HIV and hepatitis C more Kentucky communities need to get on board, quickly.

The way exchanges work is that drug users bring in used needles and get clean ones in exchange. This gets dirty needles out of circulation where they are a danger to anyone who encounters them, including police searching subjects and children on playgrounds. At exchanges drug users can also be tested for and educated about infectious diseases. And, of course, it’s a way to reach out to those who want to get into treatment.

But the most fundamental motivation for the exchanges is to fight the spread of dreadful and costly blood-borne diseases, like HIV and hepatitis C, through needle sharing. Kentucky has the nation’s highest incidence of hepatitis C, a dreadful disease that can lead to liver failure and liver cancer. The drugs alone for treating one case of hepatitis C cost $86,000, Jennifer Hunter, the director of clinical services at Northern Kentucky District Health Department, told Estep. As much as 7 percent of Kentucky’s total annual Medicaid budget, $50 million, is spent on two drugs used to treat hepatitis C.

Needle exchanges have operated in other countries and in major cities of the United States for decades. Researchers have found over and over that not only do they not encourage drug abuse but that users who participate in the programs are much more likely to seek treatment. Still, the politics for allowing them in more rural areas only recently began to shift.

In this region the change happened quickly after Scott County, Ind., close by Louisville, gained national attention when the HIV infection rate there soared. Between November 2014 and October 2015, 181 new cases of HIV were diagnosed in the county of 24,000 which had reported only five new cases in the previous decade.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control drilled deep to find out what was going on. They found that some drug users there injected themselves as often as 15 times a day and shared needles with as many as six other people, a recipe for spreading disease. CDC also looked at the demographic profile and found a county that matched so many in Kentucky: rural and poor, with a high incidence of unemployment, prescription painkiller sales and overdose deaths. In fact, the analysis found 54 counties in Kentucky that were vulnerable to a disease outbreak among IV drug users, 18 of them more vulnerable than Scott County, Ind.

“I think a lot of health departments in Eastern Kentucky looked at it and said, ‘That easily could have been us,’” Kristy Bolen, an epidemiologist at the Ashland-Boyd County Health Department told Estep.

But Boyd and neighboring Carter counties are among only a handful of the at-risk Kentucky counties that have needle exchange programs.

That has to change or soon Scott County will be us.




July 15

The (Ashland) Daily Independent on Kentucky Power Co.’s return of corporate offices:

The return of the corporate offices of Kentucky Power Co. to the company’s original home in Ashland is a more symbolic gesture than an economic boost for this community, but it is one we welcome.

In making the announcement of the move Wednesday, Kentucky Power President and Chief Operating Officer Greg Pauley said only about eight people are expected to be directly impacted by the move. Although they represent the company’s best and highest paid employees and are just the type of people that any community would most want, eight jobs are not enough to have much of an impact on this community’s economy.

Still those eight jobs include Pauley and other top executives including the managing director of regulatory and finance, managers for external affairs and corporate communications, and an executive assistant. In short, the major decisions at Kentucky Power, a subsidiary of American Electric Power, soon will again be made in Ashland and not Frankfort.

Kentucky Power also announced that some management officials currently working out of the company’s service center in the Paul Coffey Industrial Park will move to the new office, communications manager Allison Barker said.

We continue to think that the greatest negative impact of Ashland Inc.’s decision to move its corporate headquarters from Ashland to Covington was the “brain drain” that occurred from the loss of all those Ashland Inc. employees who served on the boards of non-profit agencies, were active leaders of the churches they attended and the schools of their children, and volunteered scores of hours helping to make Ashland a better place to live and raise a family. You can’t put a price tag on the value of such people to a community, and although much smaller in number, these are just the type of employees and their families that Kentucky Power is returning to Ashland. We welcome them and wish there were more of them.

The company hopes the move will help it reconnect with those in the 20-county area it serves. The move is expected to happen by January, Pauley said.

“We need to be back there and we chose Ashland because if our longstanding relationship with the community,”?Pauley said.

The company is not planning to return to its former executive offices in the beautiful four-story building at the corner of Central Avenue and 17th Street in downtown Ashland. That building now is occupied by a large real estate office, a brokerage firm, a new restaurant and other businesses. It offers far more space that Kentucky Power now needs.

The company is still looking for appropriate office quarters, Barker said.

The relocation comes a few months after the company said it would reorganize to streamline operations and improve reliability in eastern Kentucky. An Ashland office will better serve customers not only in Northeast Kentucky but in Kentucky Power’s Hazard and Pikeville districts, Barker said.

As one would expect, local officials are welcoming the company back with open arms.

“We’ve done so much good working with them on economic development. This move will strengthen that relationship to the next level,” said Ashland Alliance President Tim Gibbs. “With what we do and the tools they bring to the table, it will be a mutually beneficial relationship.”

He’s right. Kentucky Power has always been a leader in area economic development efforts, and it recently awarded $300,000 to economic development projects in eastern Kentucky, including improvements and marketing at the EastPark industrial park.

Ashland Mayor Chuck Charles joined others in cheering Kentucky Power’s the announcement.

“It puts them back in the middle of the service area where customers will have better access to them. I?say, welcome home, because it’s good for all of us,”?Charles said.

Indeed it is.




July 11

The (Elizabethtown) News-Enterprise on a transportation forum debate:

A forum conducted by the United Way of Central Kentucky briefly stirred dormant discussion on the possibility of expanded public transportation in Hardin County.

Most people hearing about public transit visualize a government-operated, regularly scheduled bus route with daily stops.

Entry to that business is an expensive one. The equipment is expensive and the recurring costs of personnel, maintenance and fuel are prohibitive.

In addition, most municipal bus systems in this country are subsidized by taxpayers in order to make the rates affordable. These systems operate at a loss. Rest assured if this was a profitable enterprise, the private sector would be running bus lines and government would not hear these kinds of appeals.

Americans love their cars and have grown accustomed to setting their own schedule thanks to personal transportation. With gasoline at $2 per gallon or less, that’s unlikely to change.

Even the most elaborate public transit system will not provide the door-to-door personal level of convenience that car owners enjoy. A need may exist but broad-based use is unlikely.

The UWCK forum should be commended because it did not limit itself to bus service consideration. Some possible solutions suggested at the meeting included partnerships with churches and a 211 non-emergency hotline to employer or agency vouchers for cabs and buses and affordable housing closer to jobs.

The forum did not provide feedback from local government officials who repeatedly have confronted these questions. The message from elected officials is clear: Budgets from other established services will have to be cut or new tax dollars raised in order to consider a transit system.

One elected official did speak up in favor of government-supported transportation to the applause of forum participants. Coincidentally, he is part of the leadership of an entity which operates buses.

Matt Wyatt is chairman of the Elizabethtown Independent Schools Board of Education, which transports students more than 140,000 miles per year. The district has 19 buses on the road plus two others it keeps as backups.

“The city of Elizabethtown, the city of Radcliff and Hardin County government really need to work together on solving this,” he said. “We spend money on ball fields. We spend money on all kinds of things. We’re not talking about an incredible amount of money for transportation.”

Notice that Wyatt did not mention the school district being a part of the solution. It’s easy to figure out ways to spend someone else’s money.

With Wyatt’s clear support, perhaps EIS could team with the existing Transit Authority of Central Kentucky to offer a pilot bus line or at least determine just how much taxpayers would be out to operate a new year-round, subsidized service.



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