Legislators educated on hot topics

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By Jimmy Higdon

The past two weeks, I have heard testimony on issues from new temporary tags and the Kentucky Automated Vehicle Information System (KAVIS) for vehicle deeds, to the need for a Veterans’ Center in Bowling Green. This is something I appreciate as a legislator; learning about the complex and various issues so important to our citizens on a firsthand basis. In the district, I recently visited the Dunnville Post Office with Rep. Mike Harmon about the proposed reduction of operating hours. 
I returned to Frankfort the week of the Fourth of July for the Interim Joint Committee (IJC) on Transportation. We received an update on the status of the KAVIS project. This will allow all boat and vehicle titling, registration and other processes to be done through one connected system. We heard from Kentucky Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock and staff on the status of the completion. There are ongoing negotiations with contractors to complete the project. Members expressed some frustration with the time the project has taken, especially with the inefficient and expensive system now in use. Many members said they are ready to have KAVIS in place because it will make the work of Kentucky drivers, boaters, clerks and dealers much easier when purchasing or selling vehicles and boats, and processing the necessary paperwork.
Among other recent interim activity, I chaired the IJC on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection on July 10. We had a full agenda and heard testimony from, and on behalf of, veterans and their needs. First, we heard from advocates for a new Veterans’ Center in Bowling Green. The panelists, Dr. Ray Biggerstaff Cpt. (RET) and Col. (RET) Bill Lytle, explained the need for the center as well as the overwhelming support from local citizens and officials. Currently, veterans in the region are being forced to drive long distances for needed services, and the lack of a closer center may force some veterans to move out of state.
The Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Veteran Affairs, Heather French Henry, also advocated for the center, which would house a nursing home, education center, job center and behavioral health services. There would be partnerships with Western Kentucky University for education and medical needs. Among the questions from the committee were: “What is Kentucky’s place on the Veterans’ Affairs (VA) wait list for a federal VA center?” and, “How home care is being addressed with its growing popularity as an alternative to residing in a nursing home or assisted living center?” The presentations were informative and we will most likely hear more on this need during the next session.
The committee then heard from representatives of the Veterans’ Affairs (VA) Hospital in Louisville on the many treatment options for veterans with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The VA provided a thorough presentation on counseling, group therapy, and medical approaches used to treat PTSD. According to testimony, the many treatment approaches have allowed patients to achieve positive results and live a more balanced life.
Discussion was also held on the substance abuse problem that often accompanies those with PTSD. Testimony from the VA representatives informed members of programs to help addicts, and that good research has been conducted on PTSD treatments, producing positive results.
A sad reality of those suffering from PTSD is thoughts of suicide. The Veterans’ Crisis Hotline is free and can provide immediate help to veterans, their family members, friends and co-workers. If you suspect a veteran might be in need of help, call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (press 1); send a text to 838255; or use the confidential online chat is at www.veteranscrisisline.net.
Finally, we heard testimony from veterans advocating for the legalization of medical marijuana to treat PTSD and other injuries. This is a hot topic across the nation, and advocates say it continues to gain traction. I am sure we will hear more on the topic throughout the interim.
It was a busy two weeks with so many issues being discussed. Many of the presenters bring great passion to the meetings. I appreciate their energy and willingness to be part of the process for change as they see fit. It is what makes our system work.
I am always interested in your comments or questions. Please feel free to contact me by calling and leaving a message at the toll-free message line for legislators, 1-800-372-7181. Also, you are welcome to call me at my home, 270-692-6945. My e-mail address is jimmy.higdon@lrc.ky.gov.