Kentucky Takes a Step Towards Improving Mental Health Care for High-Risk Youth with the Passage of Senate Bill 252

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

Kentucky is poised to establish a special mental health juvenile detention facility for high acuity youth following the passage of Senate Bill 252. Sponsored by Sen. Danny Carroll, the bill has been moved forward by a House committee and is now ready for full House consideration. The legislature must act quickly as time runs out with only 18 days left in the 60-day session, and bills need to be passed by Friday to preserve their right to override a potential veto by Gov. Andy Beshear.

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

The General Assembly’s two-year budget has not yet been finalized, but funding for each of the female-only facilities and mental health facility was included in the Senate budget. While Senator Carroll had requested more funding for the mental health facility, the final budget allocation remains uncertain. However, Carroll emphasized that establishing this mental health facility is crucial and urged immediate action since delaying it could result in at least four years before addressing this issue, which he deemed unacceptable.

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