Barr presents grant to benefit BCTC biotech and nursing programs

Published 9:00 am Saturday, February 25, 2023

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Bluegrass Community and Technical College (BCTC) has come a long way in the name of serving students.

Likewise, Congressman Andy Barr – the U.S. representative for Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District – came to Winchester on Tuesday afternoon.

Barr was present with other members of his staff and numerous figures from throughout the community to announce that a federal grant totaling $1,570,000 would be given to BCTC to expand their nursing and biotech programs and enhance training equipment and resources for students.

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“We must prepare for the challenges of tomorrow, and today we are here to announce a federal grant that will do just that,” said Barr. “[BCTC] sold us on what their vision was, and you can see in the students the potential of them we as a commonwealth are going to be much better off.”

The nursing program at BCTC, accredited by both the Kentucky Board of Nursing (KBN) and The Accrediting Commission for Nursing Education (ACEN), prepares students to become registered nurses by passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).

Over 30 nursing students of BCTC were present for the event, including Christal Mullins of Letcher County.

“I know how bad and how desperately the rural areas of Kentucky need health care,” Mullins said. “Coming from a family of parents who didn’t even graduate high school, the fact that I’m just here, in general, is just such a blessing. I’m just so grateful and blessed to be the first cohort to go through the program.”

Some of Mullins’ comments point to a nursing shortage, which has become prevalent across the state as staff leaves due to burnout, and other factors.

With the COVID pandemic, tornadoes in western Kentucky, flooding in eastern Kentucky, and more of the past few years, Barr emphasizes that such professionals are needed throughout the commonwealth and the United States.

“It’s really important that we deal with this crisis nursing shortage in our country right now,” he said. “Grants like this for technology, better equipment, [and] more faculty to recruit and retain more nursing professionals is exactly the kind of solution we need to this healthcare crisis.”

Certainly not to be overlooked, BCTC offers the only two-year program in Kentucky for biotechnology.

“The biotechnology will produce lab technicians who do quality testing and [develop] products to be put on the market,” said Bruce Manley, campus director of Bluegrass Community and Technical College in Winchester. “We want to be able to have the state-of-the-art equipment here in Winchester to provide quality lab technicians for our partners.”

Local partners include Danimer Scientific, which works with biodegradable plastics, and Catalent Pharma Solutions.

In addition to Barr and Manley, other speakers were present as well.

These included BCTC President Dr. Kofi Akakpo, KCTCS President Dr. Larry Ferguson, BCTC Associate Dean and Director Dr. Connie Lamb, BCTC Academic Dean Dr. Val Zeps, and Clark Regional Medical Center CEO Matt Smith.

“This is going to mean so much to the bedside, which means the community,” said Smith. “Our mission is to make communities healthier it was awesome to see so many [students] in the room.”

With BCTS working hand-in-hand via internships alongside Clark Regional Medical Center, the hope is that Clark County’s future will be filled with today’s students.

“The whole point of training in Winchester is to keep quality health care providers in Winchester and here in our community,” Manley added.