Kentucky Takes a Crucial Step Toward Improving Mental Health Support for High Acuity Youth: Senate Bill 252

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

In a critical move, a bill has been introduced by Sen. Danny Carroll in Kentucky that aims to establish a special mental health juvenile detention facility for high acuity youth. The Senate Bill 252 has already passed the Senate and is now awaiting full House consideration.

With only 57 days left in the legislative session, time is running out for the bill to become law. The legislature must pass bills by Friday to preserve their right to override any potential veto by Gov. Andy Beshear. Under Carroll’s bill, Kentucky would begin operating two female detention centers by February 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 the female-only facilities, Kentucky would also build a 16-bed acute mental health facility designed to house juveniles who require 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 finalized, Senator Carroll had requested more funding for the mental health facility. However, the final budget allocation remains uncertain. Carroll emphasized the urgency of establishing a mental health facility for youth in the justice system and stressed that delaying this initiative would result in at least four years before addressing this issue – an unacceptable delay according to him.

The introduction of this bill represents a significant step towards improving support services for youth who find themselves in trouble with the law and providing them with specialized care they need to overcome their challenges.

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