Senate Panel Revamps Bill Aimed At Protecting Social Workers

A bill aimed at improving safeguards for Kentucky social workers
in the wake of a colleague's death was rewritten Thursday by a
Senate panel with backing from a top aide to Gov. Ernie Fletcher.
The version headed to the full Senate includes no guarantees for
the hiring of additional social workers, but Health and Family
Services Secretary Mark Birdwhistell said it gives him more
latitude to try to protect social workers.
Birdwhistell said if he decided extra staffing was needed, he
could dip into existing cabinet funds and seek additional state
funds to accomplish it.
The Appropriations and Revenue Committee voted to allow
Birdwhistell to request $1 million in additional state funds if
needed, along with reshuffling cabinet funds.
"It is a significant step in the right direction,"
Birdwhistell said.
The so-called "Boni Bill" stems from last year's death of Boni
Frederick, who was stabbed and beaten when she took a 10-month-old
boy to his mother's house for a visit at Henderson in western
Kentucky last October.
Gov. Ernie Fletcher proposed lawmakers approve about $20 million
over the next 16 months for the initiative. His proposal sought to
add more than 300 social services staffers, equip social workers
with two-way radios and create neutral locations for supervised
visits between birth parents and their abused or neglected
The House-passed version included $4.8 million, including $2.5
million in extra state funds, to hire more social workers and to
open visitation centers.
Senate President David Williams said the visitation centers
"might be a good idea, but it's an untested idea." He said the
rewritten bill would focus on safety needs.
Under that version, a review of social workers' offices would
result in efforts to bolster security. It also could result in
designating trained security personnel to accompany social workers
on calls.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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