When my alarm went off at 11:45 AM on Thursday, January 19, I resigned myself to sitting and watching the Kentucky House and Senate Health Services Committee meeting on KET. Cynicism abounded, and I was waiting to see if there were any shenanigans about to unfold in this meeting during the “off time” between Legislative Sessions 1 and 2. Committee meetings are often the site of rancor and disagreement between Republican and Democratic legislators as they hash out the substance and intent of bills being heard.
Kentuckians are so lucky to have KET to provide live coverage of both the House and Senate Legislative Sessions. From the LRC website you can watch by clicking on the “Live General Assembly Coverage by KET” tab. Then you can choose Live Legislative coverage 1 or 2 and watch either the House or Senate floor sessions. (I toggle back and forth between the two!)
There is also live coverage of many of the committee meetings where bills may be heard, moved forward, modified, or stalled. The back story, intent, and meat of the bill is flushed out in the committee hearing. Testimony by witnesses is heard in favor and in opposition, and legislators are given the opportunity to ask questions of the witnesses. As a legislative “nerd” I find the committee meetings fascinating.
The meeting on January 19th was remarkable! It was a joint meeting of the members of the House and Senate Health Services Committee (it used to be Health and Family Services but the two categories have been separated into two separate committees). The topic was Overview of the Opioid Abatement Initiatives. I was blown away with the presentations by all of the speakers and their passion for prevention, treatment, and recovery of opioid abuse/addiction.
The legislators on the committee, which was co-chaired by Rep Kim Moser (R-64) and Sen Stephen Meredith (R-5), asked thoughtful, inquisitive questions, and there was united appreciation for the work that is being done by groups working on opioid addiction throughout the Commonwealth. Where I thought I would see division and brinkmanship, I saw cooperation and collegiality. It reminded me that a lot of good work is being done on both sides of the aisle, and I moved from cynicism to appreciation.
Dr. Katie Marks, Project Director for KORE (the KY Opioid Response Effort), gave a brilliant presentation that highlighted the goals, projects, funding, and results of the program, which is truly making a difference. The Unshame Campaign to reduce the stigma associated with drug abuse and addiction has received 633,000 views on social media. The KY Recovery Housing Network has 42 certified houses and 496 beds. Prevention and Harm Reduction Strategies and Overdose Education are integral components of the program.
Another speaker was Dallas Hurley, with the Volunteers of America Mid-States. They are charged with drafting criteria to comply with the 2021GA HB 7 bill creating the Recovery Ready Communities Advisory Council.
Representatives from the KY Judicial Commission on Mental Health were also present to bring information that helped round out the approach to the topic of Opioid Abuse/Addiction.
Watching this committee meeting reminded me that even as we deal with deep divisions between the two major parties, it is still possible for legislators of good faith to work across party lines and accomplish positive change for our commonwealth. My cynicism about politics in general has given way to appreciation for the times that work happens.