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Date: 11-17-2017

SHAME ON US ALL FOR ALLOWING THIS TO HAPPEN...

KENTUCKY REPORT: 1 IN 9 ON DISABILITY

The Crittenden Press

Kentucky is second in the nation in disability benefit payments, and Crittenden County ranks near the top in opioid use by recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Medicaid.

According to "Social Security Disability in Kentucky: The Evolution of Dependence, 1980-2015," 11.2 percent of Kentuckians in 2015 received some form of disability payments. That's 375,000, enough for second among the 50 states in terms of percent of resident population. In fact, Kentucky has not dropped below that dubious rank since 2002. 

In Wolfe County in eastern Kentucky, a full quarter of the people living there were on disability in 2015. IN the Big Sandy area, Magoffin Co. was ranked 5th and Martin Co. 9th despite the billion dollar coal boom during the study period. See Report HERE

The recent report was conducted by Kentucky’s Disability Determination Services (DDS), a division of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, 

In the 35 years between 1980 and 2015, the state's disability enrollment grew by 249 percent, while the state's population grew by only 21 percent over that period.

Making matters worse, "enrollment trends within Kentucky’s disability population have been matched with trends in statewide prescription drug use," the report reads.

Two disability programs

The federal government issues disability through two programs – Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and SSI. Both share a common definition: "The inability to engage in substantial gainful activity based on a medically determinable impairment that is expected to last at least 12 months or result in death." SSDI recipients must have worked long enough to be insured for Social Security benefits, while SSI payments have no such qualifications.

SSDI monthly payments to Social Security-vested individuals average $1,166, but there is, generally, a five-month waiting period to begin receiving benefits and 24-month wait for insurance coverage through Medicare. 

Meantime, SSI payments average $578 per month and recipients are automatically enrolled in Medicaid. Both payments and Medicaid enrollment are awarded on the application date or as early as three months prior to that date. Children also fall under SSI and are enrolled in Medicaid, which allows parents up to $735 monthly per disabled child.

Mental disorders account for the top condition for disbility claims for both SSDI and SSI. Nationwide, 34.8 and 60 percent of beneficiaries, respectively, qualify under mental disorders.

Local SSI Medicaid opioids

In 2015, Crittenden County ranked third among Kentucky's 120 counties for per capita prescribed doses of opioids (commonly found in painkillers) through SSI Medicaid. An average of 193.18 doses of opioids per SSI beneficiary in the county were prescribed by health care professionals. The state average is 147.29 per capita, which is triple the 2000 statewide rate. 

Marshall County was the only other western Kentucky county in the top 10 for 2015 per capita doses of SSI Medicaid opioids.

Building dependency

Once awarded disability, few people appear to return to work. According to the 46-page study by DDS, only 3.7 percent of SSDI beneficiaries and 5.5 percent of SSI recipients make a successful return to work after benefits are awarded.

"Rather than providing a helping hand for a better future, the current dependence culture has become a permanent cycle for the overwhelming majority of awardees," the report states.

Nationwide in 2015, Social Security disability programs paid out benefits totaling $192.3 billion, or 5.2 percent of the federal budget. The dependency on disability payments cost the Kentucky economy $4.47 billion in lost individual income.

"Benefit dependence is highest in states and counties within Kentucky which are historically affected by under-education, long-term unemployment and persistent poverty," reads the report.
One in five Kentuckians lives in poverty.

Cause and correction

The study suggests that both the public and private sector have driven up disability roles in response to unemployment. Following the Great Recession of 2008, as long-term unemployment ran out in a stagnant job market, SSI claims soared. SSDI claims rose as private sector pension systems turned retirees to the disability system.

"Much of the exponential growth of benefit dependence over the past 35 years has been fueled by a multitude of factors which are completely unrelated to the mitigation or treatment of hardship borne of genuine disability," the report reads.

The problem appears to be compounded by a large contingency of convicted felons leaving prisons.

"At present, Social Security disability is systematically absorbing formerly incarcerated individuals who are functional but not employable due to felony convictions – a disproportionate number of which arose from non-violent drug offenses," the report states.

The DDS study suggests radical reform of the disability system, including more objective medical and psychological evaluations for qualification, capping childhood payments to parents, more vigilant fraud investigations and creating a culture that honors work.

 

Date: 11-12-2017

Kentucky female lawmakers: sexual harassment is 'a man issue' - and we need more women...

With Frankfort rocked by Rep. Jeff Hoover's resignation as House speaker last Sunday amid a sexual harassment scandal, some lawmakers have an idea for improving the culture at the Capitol: more women in the legislature, with at least a few in leadership.

After the women filed a lawsuit, the state reached a $400,000 settlement with them and a third plaintiff who alleged harassment by other lawmakers.After the women filed a lawsuit, the state reached a $400,000 settlement with them and a third plaintiff who alleged harassment by other lawmakers.

Hoover, a Jamestown Republican, announced he was stepping down after a week of controversy touched off by a Courier Journal report that he had entered a confidential settlement over sexual harassment involving a woman on his legislative staff.

"The culture up there is an attitude toward women that is very condescending," said Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, a 20-year member of the General Assembly. "They objectify women."

Women hold four of the 38 state Senate seats and 19 of the 100 seats in the House. They hold no leadership positions in either chamber.

Kentucky is 42 among states in the percentage of women elected to serve in the state legislature, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Rep. Sannie Overly, a Paris Democrat and the last woman in leadership in the House of Representatives, said she believes having more women involved in decisions might help the male-dominated culture in the legislature. She lost her leadership spot as majority caucus chairwoman after Republicans won control of the chamber in 2016 and appointed new majority leaders with Hoover in the top leadership role.

"I think when women have a seat at the table, the conversation is different," she said. "We bring our life experiences, we bring our outlook, our views, our values — the issues that are important to us and our constituents."

Overly said she is "sad and surprised" by the latest allegations involving Hoover after a sexual harassment scandal involving House Democrats hit the legislature in 2014.

"We cannot ever accept this type of behavior from anyone, especially those who hold positions of power," she said.

Both political parties in Kentucky in recent years have launched efforts to recruit and prepare women to run for office.

Republicans offer a "Kentucky Strong" program designed to "recruit, train and assist in the election of pro-business, Republican women," according to its website. 

State Sen. Julie Raque Adams, a Louisville Republican, is executive director. She said she believes getting more women into office is important at every level, including the legislature.

She said women have a lot to offer in elected positions.

"I think women are multi-taskers," she said. "I think women are very thoughtful and talk differently about issues than men do."

Adams said recent national attention to sexual harassment in the movie industry, the media and other arenas as well as politics shows that it's a problem "across the United States."

Democrats recruit women candidates through "Emerge Kentucky."

Its website says its mission is "to increase the number of Democratic women leaders from diverse backgrounds in public office through recruitment, training, and providing a powerful network."

Jennifer Moore is chairman of the Emerge board.

Moore said the recent allegations of sexual harassment show how important it is to have more women in the legislature, particularly in leadership.

"There's an old saying that if you don't have a seat at the table, you're probably on the menu," she said. "Women in Kentucky have been on the menu too long."

Moore noted that in the 2017 session three Republican men filed a bill to cut the mandatory ethics and sexual harassment training from three hours to 30 minutes. The bill failed.

"Men are shocked that sexual harassment occurs," Moore said. "No women are shocked."

Two Republican women in the House, Kim King of Harrodsburg and Addia Wuchner of Burlington, on Nov. 4 joined six male colleagues in a statement condemning allegations of sexual harassment involving House Republicans, demanding that anyone involved in a confidential settlement resign and asking for a full investigation of the matter.

Marzian said she thinks the scarcity of women lawmakers affects the outlook and culture of a legislature that once again is facing allegations of sexual harassment.

In 2014, the legislature was rocked by a sexual harassment scandal involving former state Rep. John Arnold, a Democrat from Sturgis. Two women who worked for the Legislative Research Commission alleged Arnold had harassed them repeatedly with unwanted comments and physical contact, but their complaints largely were ignored.

After the women filed a lawsuit, the state reached a $400,000 settlement with them and a third plaintiff who alleged harassment by other lawmakers.

Marzian said more women in the legislature and leadership could help bring more balance.

"Sometimes when people get elected, they think very highly of themselves," she said. "They think the rules don't apply to them."

State Rep. Joni Jenkins, a Shively Democrat, said such sexual harassment allegations are damaging to whichever party is alleged to be at fault — in the most recent case, the Republicans.

"It certainly damages their brand, and I think it reflects on the legislature as a whole," Jenkins said. "But it hasn't been a Republican or Democrat issue. It's just been, I guess, a man issue."

By Deborah Yetter
Louisville Courier Journal

 

 

 

Our 60th spotlight in the FACES OF HOPE: WE DO RECOVER series will focus on Amanda Blue’s story.

 

 

Growing up as a child I encountered so many hurtful things. As single mother, my mom did the best that she could at raising me on her own. Knowing now how hard she actually had it makes my heart hurt. My pain started when I was seven.  That’s when my parents and I didn’t truly understand what was going on. All I knew was that my life was different. I watched my dad physically abuse my mom and my biggest memory was of me threatening him with a knife if he didn’t get off of my mom. I don’t know what happened but he ended up leaving and we moved out into our own place. I didn’t understand why my daddy didn’t want to be a part of my life and for the longest time I blamed my mother. I had several family members that stepped up and help my mom out along the way.

When I was in junior high we had moved into our own apartment and my mom was going to school. I had gotten boy crazy, as most girls do. I invited an older boy up and he forced himself onto me I was screaming and telling him NO. At the age of twelve I was raped and I lost my virginity. I didn’t understand rape at all. I thought I deserved it because I invited him and had lead him on. I put it in the back of my head and really never dealt with it.

Through my junior high and high school years all I really experimented with was alcohol.  I was also in several abusive relationships, but I thought it was normal since I grew up seeing it. The summer of 1997 I experimented with cocaine for the first time and I fell in love. I can remember coming off of it and I sleeping for days. I was living with my dad because my mom had moved to Lexington to finish her college degree. Little did I know that my dad was an addict. I knew he drank but I had no clue about drugs. We began to party together. It was how we bonded. I got caught stealing his pills and got into trouble so I had to move into with my grandparents.  By this time, I was experimenting with all drugs and pills.  I was smoking weed on a daily basis and doing nerve pills and pain pills every now again. I still didn’t think I had a problem.

My boyfriend at the time told me about a pain clinic that would write these little pills that I could get a lot of money for. All I had to do was tell them I have a hard time swallowing medicine and they would prescribe me OxyContin. I went and they wrote me OxyContin and Lortabs. Crazy, I know. I didn’t like them because they made me sick, but I loved the money. I broke up with my boyfriend and went back to an ex-boyfriend from high school who was an addict. I thought I truly loved this guy and that if I didn’t marry him, I was going to be alone the rest of my life.  In reality, he was using me for my pills. We got married in 2001. At that time I was still just playing around with pills. I didn’t do them on a daily, or even weekly, basis. However, my husband at the moment did.

I found out I was pregnant in October 2001 and I had my son June 26, 2002. I continued to play around with drugs and my habit got worse. I started to use daily or every other day. I was doing 40mg OxyContin a day, or more. I found out I was pregnant with my second child in June 2004 and I was struggling hard. I considered all of my options, from abortion to adoption to going to a methadone clinic, but I choose to not do any of those. I left my husband and went to my mom’s in Lexington to withdrawal and was monitored very closely. I didn’t use any thing after August or September of that year. My husband at the time still used daily.

I met a guy that told me about this place that gave him and some others their lives back. It was the methadone clinic. I thought well, it can’t hurt. By this point I was running out of options and I truly didn’t want to be raising two children on my own. So I got him an appointment and he started going to the clinic. Within a month he was working and doing what a normal person was supposed to do. I had our daughter on February 14, 2005. She was born healthy and perfect. However, I remember I was withholding my meds so that my husband could go get me an OxyContin. He started failing his drug tests at the clinic because I was always wanting to do pills, so he nagged me until I agreed to go to the clinic. I started the clinic in 2005 and thought I was doing great. I was only doing methadone. I was going to the clinic in West Virginia so I knew I could go to the doctor in Lexington and get them to prescribe me methadone to for pain, and of course they did. I sold them to help pay my bills. I had a job by this time and thought I was living right. I was only going to the clinic and only doing methadone. I worked every day and took care of my family and my husband did the same. Then, I found out my husband had been cheating on me and I kind of went crazy with my emotions. I had been going through emotional abuse and I had gained a lot of weight by being on the methadone, so my self-esteem was very low. I started getting attention from a guy I worked with and I also found out that he liked to party. I couldn’t take money from my family to get his drugs, so I started stealing money and mechanize from the place where I worked. At this point in my life I had learned that I could mix Xanax’s and methadone and get really high. I had also figured out how to pass my drug test so that I wouldn’t get my take homes taken from me.

In early 2009 and I was finally caught stealing from work. I was indicted and I was looking at one to five years on each felony I had, and I had managed to get four. I had never been to jail and didn’t know what jail even was. Being from a small town, and everyone knowing everyone, the owners of the company I worked for didn’t stop until I went to jail. I pled out to two years, run concurrent.  Which meant I was had to pull fifteen months to serve my sentence. Even though I knew I was going to jail, I didn’t try to detox off the methadone. Actually, my addiction got worse. By the time I went into jail in August 2010 I was doing 240mg of methadone and around 10 Xanax’s bars, which is a deadly combination. I didn’t care if I lived or died at the moment. I was too chicken to take my own life, but I guess I wasn’t if I was using drugs like I was. I went in to jail, and withdrawing off of methadone and Xanax’s was awful. I thought I was going to die but I didn’t. I went up for parole in December and was deferred nine months, which meant that I would serve fourteen months in jail. I decided to go to SAP (Substance Abuse Program) in jail. I learned a lot but I still didn’t know how live in the real world. I ended up serving eight months in jail and I got released in May 2011. I was truly scared to death.

I got released on state home incarceration, but I went right back into the same environment that I left. My husband was using drugs in front of me on a daily basis but I didn’t use drugs until I got released from parole and I finished my sentence. I started back playing around with drugs here and there. I wasn’t doing them daily or weekly. Then my husband and I split up so my dad brought me some pills to sell for him so that I would have money for the kids and me.  Since I didn’t know how to go get a job and make a normal living, I agreed. I was right back into the hustle. I ended going out with a guy that was in and out of jail. He ended up in jail in Michigan.  By this time, I was in suboxone treatment which I was abusing because I had no interest in ever being sober.  My husband and I were back together until this boyfriend got out of jail. I went and picked him up and he turned me on to heroin. He told me about all the money we could make selling it because it was so cheap in Michigan. So I turned to heroin and I overdosed twice. The second time is when I totaled my car and got my first DUI.

I tried to get off the crap but it had a hold of me. Coming off heroin was almost as bad as coming off methadone.  In September I got picked up on a shop lifting charge and spent fourteen days in jail.  My kids were taken from me and placed into my mom’s care. This all happened in 2013. I got out of jail and had to go to court and when court was over with I went and sat in the court room until he got finished. He had known me all my life. I told him I was at my rock bottom, that my family had given up on me. He suggested for me to do drug court. I laughed at him and said, “Why so you can throw me back into jail?” He said, “No so I can get you the help you need”. I agreed to be sentenced into drug court in October 2013 and I will never forget how my lawyer said “If you mess up I can at least get you into rehab because I’m on the panel.” My husband and I were back together too. I told him also that he had to do drug court as well, and he did. While in the program for the first year I didn’t get any sanctions. I got custody of my children back but I knew something was right. I choose to let them stay with my mom because I knew my marriage was over but I didn’t know how to truly end it. My grandfather had always been my biggest supporter. No matter what I did, he still loved me. In the end of January 2015 my grandfather died. My heart was broken but I knew I couldn’t fall back into out behavior or habits just because I was feeling some type of way. I buried my grandfather on my mom’s birthday and then in April I found out my husband was selling dope again. I went to my drug court counselor and told her what was going on. She told me my options were to kick him out or go live at the women’s shelter, so I choose to kick him out. At first I was really upset because they wouldn’t just throw him in jail but in the end it was the best decision that someone has ever made for me. He and I were supposed to graduate drug court the same time in August 2015, but when it came time I went to the judge and explained I wasn’t ready. I told him I wanted to restart the program. He said he had never had anyone ask to do that. I told him that this was life or death for me and I was willing to do whatever to keep me sober. I had filed for divorce and I had started seeing a new guy. This guy wasn’t like anyone I had ever went out with.  He didn’t do drugs or want to be with anyone that did. Now we’re happily married. My divorce was final in February and he and I got married in May 2016. I graduated drug court on November 28, 2016 and it was a bittersweet moment. My life is forever changed and now I get the opportunity to share my life experiences and give back everything I have learned.

My aha moment:

My aha moment was the month I was supposed to graduate and I decided to start drug court over by my own free will.  Because I knew at that moment I had to continue to get help because I had been a dry drunk until that very moment.

Feelings and emotions of active addiction:

My feelings and emotions in active addiction were anger and hopelessness.  I was never happy and always negative. I guess you can say I was the Debbie downer and the negative Nellie all in one.

The driving force that keeps me going when times get tough:

The driving force that keeps me going when times get tough is knowing that if I choose to use drugs again that I will die.

Advice for the addict still struggling:

The best advice I can give the addict still struggling would be asking for help.  Don’t be ashamed.

What obstacles or roadblocks have you faced in your recovery?

The biggest obstacle that I have encountered since I have been in recovery is losing my grandfather.  He was my everything and I had said many times that I would never be able to bury him sober BUT I did.  This man had told me so many times I can’t die or give sissy because no one will be here to take care of you.  He had finally seen that I had finally straightened and knew that I was going to be ok.

What is something you want people who never struggled with addiction to know?

Don’t judge those addicts or look down on them.  Pray for them or reach out and just listen.

What advice do you have for family members of a person in addiction?

Don’t love them to death.  Don’t feel guilty for not giving them money for their drugs.  Pray for them and no matter what when they do come to you and ask for help BE THERE.  Forgive them.

Closing Thoughts

I am one grateful recovering addict.  I have been blessed to work for a company that doesn’t look down on me because I have a past. I get to share my story and give hope and faith to the addict that is still struggling.  I get to show them that if a drug addict like me can recover then so can they.  My relationship with God has grown since I have been working with Addiction Recovery Care and that is something I will forever be grateful for.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please call Addiction Recovery Care at 606.638.0938 or visit them on the web at www.arccenters.com.

 

There is hope. There is help.