Politics & Government

These new health laws take effect in Kentucky soon. Here’s what you need to know.

Later this month, most adults in Kentucky will be able to carry a concealed firearm without a permit, pregnant women and new mothers will be guaranteed protections in their work places, and relative caregivers of children experiencing abuse or neglect will have greater support from the state.

These new health-related laws, along with most of the nearly 200 others passed by lawmakers during the 2019 regular session of the Kentucky General Assembly, will take effect June 27, or 90 days after the session adjourned.

Some of the more notable bills codified into law aim to alleviate pressure on the state’s foster care system by prioritizing and supporting in-home care and care by relatives, and setting harsher standards for parents who perpetuate abuse or neglect.

House Bill 446 could mean the loss of parental rights for mothers of infants born drug affected. House Bill 2, on the other hand, creates a formal caregiver assistance program for relatives of abused children at risk of entering the foster care system because of abuse or neglect. That classification change will trigger state data collection on those families and means that family caregivers will have access to a reimbursement program from the Cabinet of Health and Family Services to help with the cost of fostering.

Two bills relating to abortion rights will take effect next week, in addition to two others that were designated emergency legislation and went into effect immediately before being challenged in court. One would make abortion illegal in Kentucky if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, and another will force Kentucky’s only abortion provider to more stringently report to the state which prescriptions were provided to women for medication-induced abortions. Under the latter law, the doctor is also required to inform patients if the abortion can be reversed and, if so, how to do it.

Under Senate Bill 18, it will be unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee who is pregnant or a new mother. In the same way an employee with a disability is accommodated, employers with at least eight employees must extend the same courtesy to pregnant women or new mothers, including providing them with adequate leave from work.

The controversial concealed carry bill, which was opposed by some law enforcement leaders and a majority of Kentuckians surveyed by phone in February, allows anyone over the age of 21 in Kentucky who is legally able to possess a firearm to carry one without first getting a license or receiving safety training. Members of the House introduced more than 20 amendments to tighten restrictions on the bill but all were ultimately voted down or ignored.

Other bills taking effect touch on a variety of health issues:

One formally certifies and regulates home-birth midwives in the state, which backers said will allow broader access to and increased safety of that service;

Another explicitly defines any sexual contact between a person and an animal — also known as bestiality — as a felony crime;

A bill from the Senate requires all emergency medical technicians to receive awareness training for instances of sexual violence.

And another will outlaw the use tobacco, e-cigarettes and vaping devices at K-12 schools beginning in the 2020-2021 school year. House Bill 11 allows individual school districts to opt out of the mandate and allows schools to establish a personalized penalty system for violators.

The new batch of laws also includes at least three dealing with opioid abuse:

Senate Bill 161 will allow anyone struggling with substance use disorder who voluntarily submits to treatment through a law enforcement agency to avoid prosecution for possessing drugs or drug paraphernalia. Exceptions to this new rule include those with an outstanding warrant and anyone who harms a law enforcement official;

House Bill 342 will require physicians beginning in 2021 to electronically log all prescriptions for controlled substances;

And House Bill 470 allows pharmacists to more freely distribute naloxone, which reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, to any person or law enforcement officer who plans to distribute it as part of a harm reduction program. This law also newly classifies anyone who unlawfully provided a fatal overdose victim with the drug they overdosed on as guilty of second-degree manslaughter.

Alex Acquisto is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program made possible in Kentucky with support from the Blue Grass Community Foundation. Reach her at 859-231-1427, @AcquistoA
Alex Acquisto covers health and social services for the Lexington Herald-Leader and Kentucky.com. She joined the newspaper in June 2019 as a corps member with Report for America, a national service program made possible in Kentucky with support from the Blue Grass Community Foundation. She’s from Owensboro, Ky., and previously worked at the Bangor Daily News and other newspapers in Maine.
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