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Tribal advocates keep up legal pressure for fair political maps; 12-member jury sworn in for Trump's historic criminal trial; the importance of healthcare decision planning; and a debt dilemma: poll shows how many people wrestle with college costs.

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Civil rights activists say a court ruling could end the right to protest in three southern states, a federal judge lets January 6th lawsuits proceed against former President Trump, and police arrest dozens at a Columbia University Gaza protest.

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Rural Wyoming needs more vocational teachers to sustain its workforce pipeline, Ohio environmental advocates fear harm from a proposal to open 40-thousand forest acres to fracking and rural communities build bike trail systems to promote nature, boost the economy.

KY youth speak to lawmakers on mental health, drug epidemic, more

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Friday, January 26, 2024   

Protecting, supporting and listening to Kentucky's kids is the focus of Children's Advocacy Week. As events at the Capitol in Frankfort wrap up, advocates have outlined critical policy recommendations they say will help shape better lives for kids.

Alicia Whatley, policy and advocacy director for Kentucky Youth Advocates, pointed to House Bill 275, aimed at reducing the risk of child sexual abuse and exploitation by mandating that all schools cannot enter into nondisclosure agreements about misconduct involving minors or students. Whatley said it would prevent teachers with a history of inappropriate relationships with students from maintaining a "clean" employment record.

"Part of that bill's purpose," she said, "is to ensure that teachers don't have the ability to do that and put more kids at risk."

Other priorities of the "Blueprint for Kentucky's Children" coalition include increased housing stability, investments in child care, enforcement of youth vaping-prevention laws, and creating a continuum of care for youths in the juvenile justice system.

Kentucky's Medicaid reimbursement rates for mental-health services lag behind bordering states, in some cases by more than 35%.

Grayson County high school student Amelia Williams said serious mental-health issues in her school have become commonplace. She said she believes it's critical to expand access to counseling and treatment for youth.

"You will have so many kids in your class that will be failing because of all this mental stuff they have going on," she said. "It's just so prominent in schools now. I feel like now more than ever, is really the best time to act, because we are in a period of new ideas and new solutions."

Whatley noted that Kentucky has some of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country, especially among Black women. The Blueprint for Kentucky's Children calls for reducing barriers to opening free-standing birth centers, health-care facilities designed for childbirth in a home-like environment, suitable for low-risk pregnancies.

"This is an option that lets women have a birth setting that is outside of a hospital," she said, "using the midwifery model of care."

According to state data, more than 90% of maternal deaths in Kentucky are considered preventable.

Disclosure: Kentucky Youth Advocates/KIDS COUNT contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Children's Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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