Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:
Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader on the Legislature to tweak pill-mill bill:
It should come as no surprise to anyone that Kentucky is plagued by prescription drug abuse.
Still, a University of Kentucky study released recently must give us all pause.
It should also inform the medical community, the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure and the General Assembly in the new year as they consider changes to regulations designed to assure that the most abused medications are prescribed only when they are medically appropriate.
The Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center studied 11 years (2000 to 2010, inclusive) of death certificate files, emergency department and hospital billing records, to assess the pattern of drug overdoses. Some of the findings:
— Drug overdose deaths in Kentucky rose by 282 percent.
— Drug overdose hospitalizations rose 68 percent.
In 2010 alone:
— 53 percent of the overdose deaths involved prescription drugs.
— Overdose-related inpatient hospitalization charges totaled $68.6 million. Emergency-room charges were another $9.6 million. Medicaid was charged $18.7 million for hospitalizations and $2.6 million for emergency-room care.
The investigators stated that they did not see any signs of a downturn in the numbers and that they believe the reports probably understate the actual overdose-related deaths and hospitalizations. ...
Earlier this year, the General Assembly passed what's called the "pill-mill bill" aimed at closing down so-called pill mills where doctors write thousands of prescriptions for dangerous pain pills, often with cursory or no examination of patients.
It also authorized the KBML to write regulations to reduce the incidence of legitimate physicians incorrectly writing prescriptions for these dangerous drugs.
In regulations, the devil is always in the details. There has been significant push-back from the medical community and patient advocates about the regulations. ...
In January, a legislative committee will consider the revised regulations. ...
Watered-down regulations that impose only a minor inconvenience on physicians and accomplish little to stem this deadly tide will be worse than meaningless, they would be a disservice to the tens of thousands of Kentuckians who have lost parents, children, family members, friends and coworkers to prescription drug abuse.
Daily News, Bowling Green, Ky., on the state's Safe Schools Program:
Keeping our schools safe in this state should be one of our top priorities, which is why it is troubling to have learned that funding for a school safety program has been drastically cut.
In light of the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., it seems that these cuts for the safety program in our state need to be reviewed.
It has been reported that funding for the Safe Schools Program has decreased from $10.4 million in 2007-08 to $4.5 million in the current school year.
This is an almost 60 percent cut to the program, an amount that raises concerns. The funding cut has led to less safety audits being performed at schools around the state by the Kentucky Center for School Safety, which was formed by the General Assembly in 1997 in the aftermath of a shooting at Heath High School in West Paducah. The center has reduced training programs and canceled a safety conference this year.
Ninety school audits were performed annually when the center was fully funded, but this year there will be just 57.
The cuts have limited what the center can do and what superintendents do, although the center still provides training, technical assistance and safe school assessments.
But center officials said they are not doing as much as they would like.
Given the status of our state's economic condition, we understand that cuts had to be made, but in light of recent events our legislators need to carefully review these cuts during the upcoming session in January.
Democratic State Rep. Carl Rollins and Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday say our schools are still safe places.
That might be the case now, but we believe that our schools can always be safer, which is why we believe cutting funding for the center needs to be reviewed thoroughly.
Our children deserve nothing less. We cannot afford to be a day late and a dollar short.
The News-Enterprise, Elizabethtown, Ky., on a new state area code:
Long after New Year's resolutions are just memories, Kentuckians in our region will have a new opportunity to exercise: Using their fingers for 10-digit dialing.
After a false start a few years ago, the North American Numbering Plan Administrator notified the Kentucky Public Service Commission that without a new area code, the 270 area code that covers much of south central and western Kentucky would be out of numbers within two years.
That prompted a debate about whether to break up the region and assign a new code to one specific geographic area, or to create an overlay region with two operable area codes.
The commission debated, and held a series of public meetings to discuss the issue and weigh public sentiment.
The public stayed home in droves to express its apathy.
Creating a new area code assigned to one geographic area would have been a nightmare. Consumers would have had to change their phone numbers. Documents from business cards and stationery to billboards would have had to be trashed or amended.
The downside is 10-digit dialing and education.
The need for a new area code was prompted by the proliferation of wireless devices and cellphones. Anyone with even passing knowledge of that technology probably already dials 10 digits on the rare occasions they actually dial numbers and not a shortcut or from a contacts list.
In opting for an overlay area code, the commission made the right choice. Apparently the public agrees.