Kentucky’s New Mental Health Juvenile Detention Facility: A Promising Step Toward Improving Care for ‘High Acuity’ Youth in the Justice System

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

The establishment of a special mental health juvenile detention facility is a critical move, according to Sen. Danny Carroll. The Kentucky House committee has moved forward with Senate Bill 252, which aims to address the housing needs of “high acuity” youth in the justice system. Carroll emphasized the urgency of this issue, stating that delaying action could result in at least four years before addressing it.

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

The legislature must pass bills by Friday to preserve their right to override potential vetoes by Gov. Andy Beshear before time runs out during this session’s final week. While the General Assembly’s two-year budget is not yet finalized, funding for each of these facilities was included in Senator Carroll’s budget proposal. However, there is uncertainty about the final budget allocation for the mental health facility as Senator Carroll had requested more funding than what was allocated in his proposal.

Despite these challenges, Senator Carroll remains optimistic about this bill’s future and urges lawmakers to act quickly to ensure that high acuity youth receive appropriate housing and care as soon as possible.

In conclusion, Senate Bill 252 proposes a significant step towards addressing the housing needs of “high acuity” youth in Kentucky’s justice system by establishing two female-only detention centers and an acute mental health facility designed specifically for juveniles who require specialized treatment for aggression or other mental health issues.

While time is running out for this legislation to become law during this session, Sen. Danny Carroll remains hopeful that his bill will make it through both houses of Congress before time runs out on Friday. If passed into law, Kentucky will take another important step towards providing appropriate care and support for its most vulnerable citizens – high acuity youth in the justice system.

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