Kentucky takes a critical step towards addressing mental health crisis in juvenile justice system with Senate Bill 252

By Eleanor Harrison Mar27,2024
Kentucky legislature moves forward with plans for mental health juvenile detention facility

A bill that aims to establish a special mental health juvenile detention facility for high-acuity youth has been advanced by a Kentucky House committee. Sen. Danny Carroll, the sponsor of Senate Bill 252, emphasized the importance of this bill, calling it a critical move. The bill has already passed the Senate and is now awaiting full House consideration.

With only 13 days left in the legislative session, time is running out for the bill to become law. The legislature must pass bills by Friday in order 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 by Feb. 1, 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.

In addition to establishing these detention centers, Kentucky would also 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, with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services partnering to provide appropriate mental health treatment.

While the General Assembly’s two-year budget is not yet final, Senator Carroll had requested more funding for this mental health facility, but the final budget allocation remains uncertain. Carroll stressed the urgency of establishing this facility for youth in the justice system and stated that delaying this initiative would result in at least four years before addressing this issue, which he deemed as unacceptable.

By Eleanor Harrison

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