Kentucky legislature moves forward with plans for mental health juvenile detention facility
Health

Kentucky Takes a Leap Toward Better Care for High-Acuity Youth with New Mental Health Juvenile Detention Facility

A bill has been advanced by a Kentucky House committee to establish a special mental health juvenile detention facility for high-acuity youth. Sponsored by Sen. Danny Carroll, the bill is considered critical and has already passed the Senate. With time running out, the legislature must pass it by Friday to preserve their right to override a potential veto by Gov. Andy Beshear.

Under Carroll’s bill, Kentucky would begin operating two female detention centers, one in Central Kentucky and one in the western part of the state, by February 1, 2026. A third facility could be built if the first two reach capacity. Additionally, the Department of Juvenile Justice would own and staff a 16-bed acute mental health facility designed to house juveniles in need of specialized treatment for aggression, violence or property destruction. The Cabinet for Health and Family Services would partner with the Department of Juvenile Justice to provide appropriate mental health treatment.

Although the General Assembly’s two-year budget is not yet finalized, funding for each of the female-only facilities and mental health facility was included in the Senate budget. Senator Carroll had requested more funding for the mental health facility but the final budget allocation remains uncertain. He emphasized that acting promptly is crucial as delaying this initiative could result in at least four years before addressing this issue which he deemed as unacceptable.

The establishment of this special mental health juvenile detention facility is an important step towards providing better care and support for high-acuity youth in our justice system who are struggling with mental health issues that require specialized treatment. It also highlights Kentucky’s commitment to addressing this critical issue and ensuring that all children receive access to appropriate care regardless of their background or circumstances.

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