The3rd meeting of the Subcommittee on Families and Children of the Interim Joint Committee on Health and Welfare was held on Wednesday, October 17, 2007, at 10:00 AM, in Room 131 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Katie Stine, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Guests: Michelle Sanborn for the Kentucky Children's Alliance and Sandy Cannon for the Division of Child Care.
LRC Staff: DeeAnn Mansfield, Ben Payne, and Cindy Smith.
First on the agenda was a presentation on the Complete Streets initiative by Tiffani Jackson, Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator, in the Office of Special Programs, at the Transportation Cabinet, and Kenzie Gleason, Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator for the Lexington-Fayette Urban-County Government. Ms. Jackson stated that complete streets are safe, comfortable and convenient for travel via automobile, foot, bicycle and transit. A complete streets policy ensures that the entire right of way is routinely designed and operated to allow safe access for all users. Complete streets reduce isolation and dependence and are needed for low income Kentuckians who can not afford a vehicle, for the elderly who many no longer be able to drive, for children, and people with disabilities. Ms. Jackson figured a cost estimate for complete streets throughout Kentucky and found that total saving to the Department over 20 years would be over $356 million dollars due to the benefit of the lives saved over the duration. She noted that Dr. David Chenoweth, econometrics expert at East Carolina University, helped develop a method to calculate the cost of physical inactivity. This calculation gives an estimate of medical care, worker's compensation, and lost productivity costs associated with the levels of inactivity in community or workplace. Using this calculation, she found that if only 5 percent of Kentuckians were physically active, it could save an estimated $331 million each year. Complete streets will allow more people to be physically active on a daily basis which may lower the effects of obesity related diseases.
Senator Stine asked if roads need to be wider to accommodate the bicycle/pedestrian lanes. Ms. Jackson said they do not always have to be widened. She said the travel lanes could be narrowed, or wide roads that have four lanes, could be reduced to three lanes to make room for the additional bicycle/pedestrian lane.
Senator Stine asked if complete streets are mandated by the federal government. Ms. Jackson said that while they are not mandated, there is a complete streets organization which goes to states and provides information on more accessible ways to use roads. Many states have ignored the initiative, but Kentucky has put in a good effort. She indicated that she is currently working on an updated enhancement policy for the Transportation Cabinet.
Next, Ms. Gleason discussed Lexington's Bicycle and Pedestrian Program. She said it was created for a number of reasons, including public demand, regional and national competitiveness, quality of life, economics and public health. She said the program does have challenges. There is a limited amount of state funds which are competitive and a limited number of Transportation Enhancement funds for bike/pedestrian facilities. In Kentucky, 7.3 percent of fatalities are bike/pedestrian fatalities, while there is only 1.3 percent spent on bicycle/pedestrian facilities. There is also a lack of state and regional coordination and a basic infrastructure paradigm shift is needed .
Next, Tom Emberton, Undersecretary for Children & Family Services, Cabinet for Health and Family Services, discussed program and policy changes that the cabinet is undertaking to improve consistency. He indicated that the Department for Community Based Services has 5,000 staff statewide, the largest in state government. They receive 65,000 to 90,000 referrals each year and conduct over 35,000 investigations involving more than 45,000 children. Some of the changes they have made include: reducing the number of regions from 16 to 9; implementing an anonymous complaint system; adding a case review process and analysis; holding the Blue Ribbon Panel meetings to address transparency; making improvements in ombudsman communication; increasing the focus on preventative services; and holding a conference on racial disproportion in the child welfare system.
Representative Burch asked about the problems in Hardin County and Northern Kentucky and why it took almost four years to get to the point the Department is at now. Commissioner Emberton said it did not take that long and he noted there is a greater span of control and greater consistency now. He also noted that prior to the Office of Inspector General report, changes had been made in Hardin County.
Next, Mark Washington, Commissioner, Department for Community Based Services, Cabinet for Health and Family Services and Tina Webb, Protection and Permanency, gave an overview of the Child Fatality and Near Fatality Annual Report for 2007. This report focuses on substantiated child abuse and neglect cases with prior cabinet involvement. She indicated that 72.5% of the victims were 3 years or younger, 148 children total. About 41% were the result of physical abuse and 59% were the result of neglect. The major risk factors for these cases are substance abuse, criminal history, and previous domestic violence. One prevention program that has been initiated is with U of L to automatically conduct a child abuse and neglect review for children under age 4 who check into the hospital with certain trunk, ear, or head injuries.
Representative Burch said that the Child Fatality Reports are supposed to include all child deaths, including child deaths on ATVs. Ms. Webb stated that child death statistics including deaths due to accidents on lawnmowers and ATVs are included in the report in the numbers of deaths by neglect.
Next, Jason Dunn, Division of Family Support, presented on Kentucky Transitional Assistance Program (K-TAP) challenges resulting from federal reauthorization. He said that there has been a decrease in the number of participants in education activities because participation in 4 year degree programs no longer counts as a stand-alone activity. There was also a decrease in the number of employed participants due to a change in the calculation of self-employment hours. He mentioned one new pilot program with the Lake Cumberland Community Action Agency which provides post-K-TAP services to help with job retention, advancement, crisis intervention, and financial counseling. The cabinet has contracted with U of L to conduct an statewide program evaluation.
Representative Burch asked why the mandates are dropping. Mr. Dunn said it is due to an increase in child only cases. There are fewer instances where only the parent receives assistance.
Representative Burch asked what happens to the families when their time runs out using KTAP services. Mr. Dunn said every family if offered the safety net services when they are phasing out of the program.
Senator Buford asked how many individuals use KTAP services up to the 60 month limit. Mr. Dunn said he doesn't have that number, but it isn't very many. Many people phase out of the program after two or three years.
Lastly, Mark Washington and Sandra Noble Canon, Director, Division of Child Care, discussed the Child Care Assistance Program. They are currently working to lift co-payment requirements from over 6,500 of Kentucky's working poor; eliminate the need for providers to collect co-pays; increase the number of STARS Level 3 and 4 child care centers and homes; and give increased incentives to attract new centers and homes into the STARS program and reward Level 3 & 4 centers and homes that maintain STARS rating.
Senator Buford asked if the Stars Program has focus groups. Ms. Cannon said there is the Early Childhood Development Authority, as well as the Stars Advisory Council. Senator Buford asked if an individual from the deaf community could be added to one of the groups. Ms. Cannon said members could be added to the Stars Advisory Council, but not the Early Childhood Development Authority because those members are appointed by legislation.
The meeting was adjourned at 12:00 p.m.