‘Dreamland’ Author Describes Roots of Drug Scourge

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

DreamLandSam Quinones may become more familiar to Kentuckians now that Gov. Matt Bevin has suggested that everyone read his book. Quinones, a journalist from California, is the author of “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic.”

Bevin mentioned the book in his recent State of the Commonwealth Budget Address when he announced that he would fully fund the comprehensive anti-heroin legislation the General Assembly approved last year. The governor also said he would continue to support funding for Operation UNITE, a drug enforcement program operating primarily in southeastern Kentucky, and the KASPER system, an Internet prescription database used by doctors and pharmacists.

Quinones was at Northern Kentucky University earlier this week as a visiting writing teacher. He will return to the state in the spring to participate in more conversations about the heroin and opiate drug scourge that has hit much of Kentucky.

Associate producer Casey Parker-Bell went to Covington to talk with Quinones about his book.

For more on the opiod problem, check out my interview with West Virginia University journalism professor John Temple, author of “American Pain: How a Young Felon and His Ring of Doctors Unleashed America’s Deadliest Drug Epidemic.”

Bevin Previews Changes Coming to State Government

Friday, January 29th, 2016

Gov. Matt Bevin told me today that the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, the huge state agency that assists children and adults, and oversees Medicaid among many other responsibilities, will undergo a fundamental shift in the way it operates in the next four years.

That’s one of the topics the governor and I discussed in a One to One conversation that airs tonight at 9:30 and Sunday at 1 p.m. on KET.

In his first televised interview since delivering his State of the Commonwealth Budget Address earlier this week, Bevin talked about how he and his staff arrived at the 9 percent reduction in state spending that he proposed. He also explained that the state can’t pay off its debts by “constantly balancing to zero,” and he asked Kentuckians to look at his budget as a 30-month plan, not just yearly process.

To meet the commonwealth’s obligations, Bevin said there would be changes in the way state government operates, including a transformation for health and family services. Here’s a preview of the interview.

Takeaways from Gov. Bevin’s State of the Commonwealth Budget Address

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

Tuesday night’s State of the Commonwealth Budget Address by Gov. Matt Bevin was not the traditional speech to a joint session of the General Assembly that lawmakers have heard in recent years.

Past governors have spoken to the legislature twice in January with a State of the Commonwealth Address at the beginning of the month and a budget speech usually toward the end of the month. Bevin chose to combine the two speeches. That doesn’t make it good or bad, just different – and it may one reason Bevin’s remarks lasted more than an hour. That’s neither good nor bad either. The governor had a lot to explain and this was his time to do that.

The style and length of the speech doesn’t matter as much as what Bevin said about the spending plan he introduced to lawmakers and Kentucky citizens.

“This budget is a common sense effort to begin dealing with our pension obligations while also investing in critically important areas to better serve all Kentuckians,” Bevin told those assembled in the state House chamber.

Here are a few excerpts from the governor’s remarks about the pension issue as well as Medicaid expansion and Kynect, the health insurance exchange begun by former Gov. Steve Beshear.

Bevin spelled out budget cuts of 9 percent for all state cabinets over the next two fiscal years. He also wants spending in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, to be trimmed by 4.5 percent.

But some agencies and departments will be exempted from cuts, while others will receive raises and additional funding. Kentucky state troopers will get salary increases, and the state’s fight against drug abuse will also receive additional dollars.

KET analyst Al Cross, who is also director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky, and a columnist for the Louisville Courier-Journal, gave me his reflections on Bevin’s first budget address.

Click here to watch Bevin’s full address to lawmakers and to read a recap of his speech.

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