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Report: Massive increase in Kentucky disability recipients

Richmond Register - 10/12/2017

Oct. 12--A new report issued this week shows a massive increase in the number of Kentucky adults and children receiving disability benefits.

The report, prepared by Kentucky's Disability Determination Services (DDS), within the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS), covers a 35-year timeframe between 1980-2015.

According to the report, Kentucky's population grew by 21 percent during that time while its combined disability enrollment grew by 249 percent. Childhood enrollment growth was at 449 percent.

In 2015, 11.2 percent of Kentuckians were receiving some form of disability benefit payment, which is the second highest percentage in the country. Since 2002, the percentage of Kentucky's population receiving disability payments has never fallen below second highest among the 50 states.

The report notes eight counties had more than 20 percent receiving benefits in 2015. Wolfe County had the highest percentage at 24.92 percent, followed by Owsley (24.62), Breathitt (23.8), Clay (22.88), Magoffin (22.3), Floyd (20.97), Lee (20.21) and Leslie (20.07).

"The explosive growth of benefit dependence over the past 35 years has been fueled by a multitude of factors which are completely unrelated to the mitigation or treatment of hardship borne of genuine disability," said Bryan Hubbard, acting commissioner of the Department for Income Support, which oversees DDS, in a release. "Armed with the grim statistical reality of the past 35 years, we can seek better outcomes over the next 35 as we work to fix a broken system that must be preserved for individuals who can neither care nor provide for themselves."

The report notes that as enrollments increased so did the rate of controlled substance prescriptions.

Per capita opioid prescriptions for SSI/Medicaid adult recipients have increased from 47.58 doses in 2000 to 147.29 doses in 2015, a 210 percent increase. Per capita psychotropic prescriptions for SSI/Medicaid children have increased from 272.61 doses in 2000 to 456.87 doses in 2015, an increase of 168 percent.

The report also outlines reforms and includes a recommendation for an overhaul of the Social Security Administration Program Operations Manual System.

"This report is the first of its kind to have ever been issued by an individual state," concluded CHFS Secretary Vickie Yates Brown Glisson. "Its findings shed new light on the misuse and abuse of a vital program intended to help disabled citizens. It also illuminates one of the main drivers of our prescription drug abuse epidemic while offering solutions as to how we stem the tide of prescription and public assistance dependence. The good news from grim findings is that we can re-assert control of our future and make it better for all Kentuckians."

Jonathan Greene is the editor of The Register; follow him on Twitter @jgreeneRR.

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(c)2017 the Richmond Register (Richmond, Ky.)

Visit the Richmond Register (Richmond, Ky.) at richmondregister.com

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