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Kentucky organ donor advocates fear drop-off of registry

Kentucky capitol
Posted at 1:05 PM, Feb 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-06 14:45:47-05

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — When Kentucky overhauled its driver's licenses to comply with federal security rules, it added another change: Licenses will last eight years instead of four.

That is a big problem for organ donation advocates, who worry the new schedule will squeeze the primary method of registering potential donors. Kentuckians get their driver's licenses at circuit court clerk's offices, and nearly every person on the state's growing organ donor registry got there because someone in the clerk's office asked about it during a license renewal.

About 1 million people renew their driver's licenses in Kentucky every year. But with the renewal period doubling to eight years, clerks expect to see that number cut in half. The change will start phasing in this spring, when drivers will have the option of a four- or eight-year license. Beginning in 2023, drivers will have eight-year licenses only.

"We're only going to be able to ask them (to be an organ donor) once every eight years," said Shelley Snyder, executive director of the Kentucky Circuit Court Clerks' Trust for Life. "It cuts down on the number of people going to be given that opportunity."

Snyder said Kentucky's organ donor registry is one of the fastest growing in the country. In 2011, about 30 percent of Kentuckians were on the registry. Today, it's 60 percent. Snyder said the registry adds between 7,000 and 10,000 people per month.

Advocates are looking for ways to make up the difference. One idea is to ask people every time they log in to the Kentucky Online Gateway, a website people use to sign up for state services. Wednesday, the state Senate Health and Welfare Committee voted to advance legislation that would do that. It passed unanimously. The proposal's next stop is the state Senate for a full vote.

The Kentucky Online Gateway is one website people can use to apply for several state services. People can use the website to sign up for Medicaid and food stamp benefits, make child support payments. Snyder said about 1.1 million people use the website.

"We hope that it will at the very least make up for our loss," Snyder said.

The trust is a nonprofit organization that educates people about the organ donor registry and how it works. It's primarily funded with $1 donations collected at circuit court clerks' offices. With the longer renewal period, donors can elect to donate $2 to the trust.

Republican state Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr voted for the bill, saying one of her closest friends is on the heart transplant list.

"You start thinking about this in a whole different way," Kerr said.


The legislation is Senate Bill 77.