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Valarie Honeycutt Spears is a Lexington native and a graduate of Transylvania University. A Lexington Herald-Leader reporter since1983, she covers a wide range of topics including government.

Legislation calls for more scrutiny of nursing home deaths

State Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville


By Valarie Honeycutt Spears –

An overhaul of the system for investigating deaths in Kentucky nursing homes is proposed in a bill pre-filed by state Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville, for the 2011 General Assembly.

Central to Burch’s legislation is a provision that would require a specific staff member at long-term care facilities and hospices to report all deaths to the county coroner within 24 hours.

BR 67 also requires coroners to involve police or prosecutors if they suspect maltreatment. But Burch said Monday the bill is intended to give coroners discretion in choosing which deaths need review by other officials.

Currently, state law does not require nursing homes to report most deaths to coroners, who are rarely called even when abuse or neglect is suspected.

Burch’s proposal acts on recommendations made by Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration following an internal review earlier this year of how nursing home abuse and neglect allegations are investigated. The review came after the Herald-Leader published a series of reports this summer about gaps in the system used to investigate nursing home abuse.

Northpoint adds a third deputy warden to help with rebuild

By Valarie Honeycutt Spears –

The state Department of Corrections has added a third deputy warden position at Northpoint Training Center near Danville to help with the “complexities” of rebuilding the prison following a fiery riot in August.

David Gilpin, Julie Thomas and Michael Ferguson will all serve as deputy wardens, said DOC spokeswoman Lisa Lamb. Gilpin and Thomas are new to the position. They replace Don Bottom, who was promoted to warden at Blackburn Correctional Complex in Lexington on Sept. 1.

The Department of Corrections is moving forward with engineering and design plans for the rebuild, but no construction will begin until funds have been appropriated in the state budget, Justice Cabinet Spokeswoman Jennifer Brislin said. Lawmakers failed to pass a state budget last month.

Meanwhile, State Auditor Crit Luallen has notified Department of Corrections officials about the scope of a special examination her office is doing of the state’s annual $12 million contract with Aramark to provide food service at Kentucky’s 13 state-run prisons.

Former Baesler aide becomes mayor of Portsmouth, Ohio

A woman who served as a mayoral and congressional legislative aide to Scotty Baesler has been elected the first female mayor of Portsmouth, Ohio, which sits just across the Ohio River from Kentucky.

Jane Murray, known as Jane Vimont in Lexington, won the November 3 election after promising solutions for Portsmouth financial problems and to work toward solving the prescription pill problem in the area.
Bordering Greenup County, Kentucky, Portsmouth has a population of about 20,000.

Murray was a research assistant at Kentucky’s Legislative Research Commission and was Director of Research for the Urban County Government before going to work for then-Mayor Baesler in 1986.

After leaving Baesler’s Congressional office in 1995, Vimont started a projects management firm that worked on efforts in downtown Lexington.

– Valarie Honeycutt Spears