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Kentucky Child Abuse Panel Seeks Money in State Budget


Lawmakers in the House say they hope to make room in the state budget for a panel that reviews files on child deaths related to abuse and neglect.

Members of the Child Fatality and Near Fatality External Review Panel told legislators Thursday that $420,000 is needed for staff to help examine cases that could shed light on Kentucky’s response to child abuse.

“I can’t see us turning that down,” said Rep. Tom Burch, a Louisville Democrat who heads the House Health and Welfare Committee, which heard testimony from panel members.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo also predicted that lawmakers will “try very hard” to fund the program despite the state’s budget challenges.

The panel was created in 2012 to recommend improvements to state child protection services, but issued its first report in December without including any specific proposals. Members of the group have said they want a more comprehensive review of case files to create evidence-based changes.

It’s in “the state’s best interest that we take the time to collect data and create recommendations that are informed by trend data,” said panel member Joel Griffin, from Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky.

Last month, a Franklin Circuit Court judge ordered the state Cabinet on Health and Family Services to pay $756,000 in penalties in an open- records dispute with The Courier-Journal and the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, noted that the cabinet will write a check for nearly three times the panel’s budget request for its “lack of transparency.”

“Let’s make sure we focus on the need for full transparency, and let’s spend our resources more wisely than apparently we have done,” he said.

The panel also is supporting legislation this year that calls on the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure to include training on pediatric abusive head trauma in continuing education requirements for pediatricians, family doctors and others.

Melissa Currie, director of the Kosair Charities Division of Pediatric Forensic Medicine at the University of Louisville, said a number of case files have indicated that doctors are overlooking child-abuse symptoms.

“They are not missing child abuse because they are bad physicians or because they don’t care, they simply don’t have the information,” she said.