New Mental Health Juvenile Detention Facilities in Kentucky to Provide Specialized Care for At-Risk Youth

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

A bill has been advanced by a Kentucky House committee that aims to establish a special mental health juvenile detention facility for high acuity youth. The bill, Senate Bill 252, has already passed the Senate and is now up for consideration in the full House.

As time is running out with only 11 days left in the legislative session, Senator Danny Carroll, the sponsor of the bill, emphasized its importance. He called it a critical move that would address a major issue facing Kentucky’s juvenile justice system. Under Carroll’s bill, Kentucky would begin 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, Kentucky would also construct 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 while partnering with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to provide appropriate mental health treatment.

Although the General Assembly’s two-year budget is still not finalized, Senator Carroll had requested more funding for this mental health facility but he stressed that urgent action must be taken to address this issue as delaying it could result in at least four years before any progress can be made. He stated that this was unacceptable as it means that many young people will continue to suffer without proper care and support during their time in detention centers.

The establishment of these facilities is crucial as it will provide specialized care and support to high acuity youth who have been struggling with behavioral issues. This move is expected to improve outcomes for these young people while reducing recidivism rates and ensuring they receive proper care upon their release from detention centers.

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