With the seasons changing, it truly is a beautiful time here in Kentucky. The air grows crisper, weather chills, and a warm array of colors blanket our communities. I, for one, enjoy the time-honored traditions that the cozy season brings.
Serving this district in the Kentucky General Assembly is an honor, but it comes with responsibilities that I work hard to fulfill. Among them is an obligation to keep you informed of what your state government, particularly the legislature, is doing on behalf of our Commonwealth. Of course, this also means addressing your concerns and what is keeping you up at night.
I have received many phone calls and messages from constituents concerned about vaccine mandates. We intentionally did not include a statewide mandate when we were in special session earlier this month because this is a decision best made by you and me individually, although I recommend you talk to your doctor about what is best for you and your family. However, we also chose to err on the side of allowing individual employers to set their own terms of employment. After all, they are ultimately responsible for the success of their business. We will continue to monitor how employer mandates impact both the spread of COVID and access to jobs.
I am sure by now you have also heard how Kentucky’s hospitals are strained, experiencing critical staffing shortages, and that there might not be adequately staffed beds available. First, as with so many things, COVID exacerbated existing staffing shortages. The Commonwealth has had workforce shortages in the health care industry for more than a decade.
The Kentucky General Assembly has numerous committees, subcommittees, and task forces focused on health care issues. The Governor claims that the future success of the state’s approach to the pandemic is in the legislature’s hands, and we will not accept his rampant politicization of what’s at stake, so I also wanted to cover the key takeaways from this week’s health-related meetings:
- Kentucky’s largest and fastest-growing population is our aging population, those over the age of 65. One in five Kentuckians are over the age of 65, and it’s our duty to find means that support independent living through home and community-based care.
- One of the main goals of the Home and Community Based Services waivers—like the 1915© waiver—is to keep the participants living and engag
ed in their communities.
- The quality of life is better, the cost is lower, and the participant is happier. We know that waiver services are a key part of achieving the goal of making sure vulnerable Kentuckians thrive.
- The Kentucky Hospital Association shared that the state is seeing a slight decline in patients battling COVID-19, but that nonetheless as of this week only 7% of staffed ICU beds are available statewide.
- Finally, our severe mental illness task force heard a powerful testimony on the revolving door surrounding behavioral health challenges throughout the justice system.
I hope you will not hesitate to reach out to me to share your thoughts on the issues coming before us in Frankfort. As always, I can be reached at home anytime or through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181. You can also contact me via email at Richard.Heath@lrc.ky.gov. You can also keep track of interim committee meetings and prefiled legislation through the Kentucky Legislature Home Page at www.legislature.ky.gov.