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Legislative Column: Representative Melinda Gibbons Prunty

BELTON, KY—On Thursday, July 14, every piece of legislation that passed during the 2022 General Assembly that did not have an emergency clause or is not tied up in court over lawsuits went into effect according to the “90 days after the end of session” rule. They are approximately one hundred in number, and I would like to share about a few of them.

 

Public assistance reforms in the form of HB 7 will toughen penalties for public benefits fraud. It will also require a community engagement component for all able-bodied adult Medicaid recipients without a child or dependent, such as an elderly parent or disabled child. It also requires the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet to create a job placement assistance program.

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services is to analyze the cost of utilizing one benefit card and develop a pilot program utilizing a third party to provide oversight and technology to improve child welfare.

Meaningful public assistance reform efforts continue with the work of the Benefit Cliff Task Force. The first meeting was July 20th to look at the impact of immediate decreases in benefits with a slight increase in earnings and the real impact on Kentuckians. We do not want individuals disincentivized to work. No one should have to choose between working and having access to healthcare and/or food.

My vision of common-sense public assistance reforms coupled with meaningful tax reforms would both significantly contribute to moving Kentucky ahead in a variety of ways. One, it would help keep veterans in Kentucky as they leave both Fort Campbell and Fort Knox, empower Kentuckians who are capable of working to do so and contribute to the tax base without being penalized financially for going to work, and give the legislature the ability to pay state employees in every sector what they are worth in order to recruit and retain qualified personnel. I will be anxious to watch the results of these changes to see if the intended outcomes are reached.

Providing mental health supports and resources has been the topic of the day across the board from students to professionals from numerous segments of society. Included in measures passed in the 2022 Session are HB 79 and SB 64. HB 79, called the Lifeliners Act, extends mental health resources to telecommunicators as part of the Law Enforcement Professional Development and Wellness Program.

SB 64 expands counseling services for members of local fire and police departments. The emphasis will be on peer review programs that will remain confidential unless someone shares the intent to commit suicide or admits to committing a violent crime or the intent of carrying out a dangerous action against another individual.

In addition, more financial resources were added to provide mental health supports to students in our schools as well as increasing the number of school counselors to one for every 250 students. They will be required to spend the majority of their time in direct service to our children and youth.

To help reach that goal, legislation was passed requiring the reporting of data on the availability of mental health professionals and school counselors to students. This data will be monitored over time to ensure that those professionals are available moving forward.

The Interim Joint Committee (IJC) on Education heard an update on school safety in its July meeting. The report included not only about help for students but also updates on the hardening of schools via the hiring of qualified safety personnel along with specific requirements for the physical plants of public schools. Trainings for SRO’s (School Resource Officers) range from de-escalation to active shooter.

In order to ensure the highest safety standards, legislation was passed to provide more accountability and oversight. The position of state school security marshal was created to oversee school safety and security compliance. The school safety board was also restructured to include a variety of community representatives. Finally, it takes severe steps to criminalize hoaxes and false threats of violence in schools, labeling each a second-degree terroristic threat.

The IJC on Health and Family Services heard testimony about Community Mental Health Centers (CMHC’s) and Behavioral Health Services Organizations (BHSO’s) both from the Cabinet and from those working in the field around 2022 RS HB 349. HB 349 passed the House but stalled in the Senate. Clarification was sought as to the validity of concerns about Mountain Comprehensive CMHC and the potential for the need for them to offer services outside their region.

We also heard about a pilot program called SafeKY, a mental health resource for students that would be available 24/7. Additionally, we had updates on healthcare workforce shortages and the high cost of paying for traveling nursing care. Shortages are affecting not only acute care hospitals but nursing facilities as well. Those testifying are working on strategies to try and address the workforce issues. The conversation will continue at future meetings.

Locally I have been grateful to be able to throw the first pitch out at the Muhlenberg County Stallions game on “Honor and Remember Night” as well as attend the Chamber lunch at the fair, be present for the ribbon cuttings for the Butler County Senior Citizens Center and True North Treatment Center in Central City, spend a few hours at the Muhlenberg County Fair and hand out citations from the House of Representatives to those who received their GED credential in Muhlenberg County.

Thank you for your continued prayers and support to my family. They are much appreciated.

As always, I welcome your comments and concerns on any issue and can be reached, regardless of if in session or not, through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at-1-800-372-7181, at 502-564-8100, Ext. 59010, or via email at melindagibbons.prunty@lrc.ky.gov

Please follow me on Facebook @melindagibbonsprunty. You can also keep track of committee meetings and potential legislation by visiting our website at https://legislature.ky.gov and watch both live and recorded meetings on YouTube at KY LRC Committee Meetings or on Kentucky Educational Television at https://ket.org/legislature.

Note: Representative Melinda Gibbons Prunty represents the 15th House District. She is Vice-Chair of both the Health & Family Services Committee and the Budget Review Sub-Committee on Health & Family Services. She serves on the Appropriations & Revenue, Education, and Natural Resources & Energy Committees as well as Medicaid Oversight & Advisory and the Kentucky Colon Cancer Screening & Prevention Advisory Committee.

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