Kentucky editorial roundup

By: The Associated Press, Associated Press
August 17, 2016 Updated: August 17, 2016 at 1:04 pm

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:


Aug. 13

The Richmond Register on needle-exchange programs:

Across the state of Kentucky and here in Madison County, government officials and community members have mixed feelings about needle-exchange programs. And rightfully so.

At its core, the programs allow people to exchange dirty needles for clean ones to cut down on needle-sharing among drug users. However, many people, including government officials, believe the exchanges encourage and enable drug abuse, which health officials say is not so.

We agree with the health officials.

Although the needle-exchange programs are providing drug users a way to get their fix, the programs help to slow the spread of infectious diseases, particularly hepatitis C and HIV. It also allows health officials a chance to be in front of users and to give them educational and addiction treatment materials.

How can that not be a good thing?

Many officials, including local law enforcement and magistrates, fear it condones intravenous drug use. It does the opposite. The programs show the county is taking an effort to fight the many risks associated with drug use. It is being proactive instead of reactive.

Needle/syringe exchanges in other jurisdictions have been shown to reduce the number of needle sticks suffered by police officers investigating illegal drug use. Also, with exchanges, infected needles and syringes are less likely to turn up in gutters, trash cans and parks.

Kentucky's rate of hepatitis C is the highest in the nation, and a recent federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report said that of the 200 counties in the nation that are most susceptible to a hepatitis C or HIV outbreak, 54 of them are in Kentucky, including several near Madison County.

If we don't look at programs like the needle-exchange, Madison County could be the next Scott County, Ind.

The small county only 30 miles north of Louisville has drawn national attention for its high rates of HIV and hepatitis C infection that health officials believe may be spread by intravenous drug users who share needles.

From November 2014 to mid-June 2015, the Indiana county of 24,200 reported 170 HIV cases. It reported 130 new cases of hepatitis C in 2014, according to published reports.

When Scott County, Ind., implemented an exchange, it was shown to reduce needle sharing by up to 18 percent in its first few months of operation.

"Needle exchanges work," said Dr. William Hacker, chair of Shaping Our Appalachian Region's Health and Wellness Advisory Committee and former state health commissioner. The National Drug Control Police Office director as well as the Surgeon General have also endorsed needle-exchange programs as a way to reduce infections as well as gain access to treatment for addition and associated diseases.

With as many health professionals saying needle-exchange programs are a good idea, why are we waiting?

Drug users will always find a way to get their fix. These programs are there to eliminate the other risks to the community. It will also save taxpayers money.

In 2014, the Kentucky Medicaid program spent $50 million to treat hepatitis C patients. The yearly cost of treating an HIV patient is $380,000, while the treatment cost for a hepatitis C patient is $85,000. But the cost of a clean syringe is less than $1.

To us, all the information points to needle-exchange programs being a good idea for all. It's time to put one in place in Madison County.



Aug. 15

The Lexington Herald-Leader on Sen. Mitch McConnell's avoidance of discussing Donald Trump:

There's a really bad word that Kentucky's senior U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell is trying to avoid saying.

The trouble for McConnell, as Senate majority leader, is that he's one of the leading Republicans in the country and he is trying to avoid talking about his party's nominee for president.

McConnell coyly turned aside a question about his support for the ticket at a lunch in Middletown recently, saying he had declared "a Trump-free day."

No wonder he wanted some relief. McConnell is walking a perilous tightrope, trying to maintain an appearance of party loyalty while distancing himself and the party from Donald Trump's often offensive, sometimes dangerous, remarks.

At the same lunch, McConnell — again avoiding the dreaded name although clearly talking about the negative impact Trump's candidacy could have on down-ticket candidates — said the GOP majority in the Senate is "very dicey."

It's a long time until November. McConnell and all the other Republicans — including our Gov. Matt Bevin and U.S Rep. Andy Barr — who have been coy about Trump need to make it very clear where they stand.

McConnell did his usual neat turn in Middletown, angling the conversation to attack Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, as if defeating Clinton would spark a do-over with a more palatable Republican candidate.

But our system doesn't work that way. Barring the unforeseeable, either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will be elected president in November.

McConnell must explain how he can claim a Trump-free day for himself but is willing to subject the country to four years of Trump days.



Aug. 16

The Daily News on why schools should start in late August:

Starting schools in early August or even late July when it's 90 degrees outside makes absolutely no sense.

This newspaper has advocated for years for either the state or individual school districts to set the first day of school closer to Labor Day.

Thinking logically, it simply isn't smart to have children waiting outside in extreme heat for a school bus to pick them up, nor does it make any sense for them to ride on hot buses that have no air conditioning.

Is it going to take children fainting from heat exhaustion or worse for the state or these individual school districts to act?

We don't want any of this to happen, but it wouldn't be surprising if it did, given the extreme heat children must endure on these buses.

Something needs to change.

One advocate who has been pushing to start school a few weeks later is state Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown. Thayer says starting school in early August when it's 90 degrees outside isn't beneficial for our children or for tourism and the tax revenue it generates.

Thayer makes a good point not only in regard to children having to endure this early August heat, but he also makes a very good argument in relation to tourism. He says our state parks become ghost towns as children head back to school as early as the last week of July in some districts. Another argument he makes is that it doesn't make sense to put a lot of time, money and resources into holding a state fair when children are already in school by the time it begins.

There is no telling how much our local communities and state are losing from tourism by starting our schools so early in August.

In a state as poor as Kentucky, we need every dollar we can get, which is just one of the many reasons our schools need to start closer to Labor Day.

It is also worth mentioning the additional air conditioning costs school districts incur in extreme heat by starting school so early.

During this year's legislative session, Thayer proposed a bill that would have shifted the statewide start of the school year to late August. People who wanted school calendars to stay under local control opposed the idea, so it was later amended to instead provide an incentive rather than a mandate for delaying the start date for schools.

The updated proposal, which was approved by a wide margin in the Senate only to be shot down in the House, would have allowed school boards willing to begin their academic year toward the end of August to have more flexibility in designing the school calendar.

This sounded like a very fair compromise offered by Thayer. Instead of the state mandating when schools must start, he offered individual school districts the option of beginning later in August.

Thayer plans to reintroduce the measure that incentivizes a later start date when next year's legislative session begins in January.

In Thayer's legislation, no one can claim that he is trying to take away local control. He's offering local control, which is what is needed.

It should be of no surprise that the Kentucky Education Association, the state's teachers union, is against the legislation. They are the ones who are all about control, not Thayer.

KEA officials say they don't support legislation that infringes on the ability of school districts to set and manage their calendars.

But Thayer's legislation doesn't infringe on school districts to set and manage calendars; it gives them the option to do so.

It is way past time that Thayer's legislation became law. We owe it to our children to keep them out of excessive heat. Pushing back the start of the school year is a no-brainer from a safety, tourism and financial standpoint.

We hope the House will consider this common-sense legislation next session and vote to pass it so the governor can sign it into law.

It's the right thing to do.


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