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A bill that aims to establish a special mental health juvenile detention facility for high-acuity youth has been approved by a Kentucky House committee. The bill, known as Senate Bill 252, was sponsored by Sen. Danny Carroll, a West Kentucky Republican. Carroll emphasized the importance of this bill, calling it “critical” for the well-being of these young individuals.

Under Senate Bill 252, Kentucky plans to operate two female detention centers by February 1, 2026. A third center could be built if the first two reach capacity. Additionally, a 16-bed acute mental health facility will be constructed to provide specialized treatment for juveniles who exhibit aggression, violence, or property destruction. The Department of Juvenile Justice will manage and staff the facility with support from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to ensure appropriate mental health treatment is provided.

The bill has already passed the Senate and is now awaiting consideration by the full House. With only a few days left in the 60-day legislative session, there is a small window for the bill to become law before Friday when legislators need to fully pass bills to preserve their right to override potential vetoes by Gov. Andy Beshear.

Carroll emphasized the urgency of establishing a mental health facility for youth in the justice system and stressed that failing to act now would result in at least four more years before these children can receive necessary support which he deemed unacceptable.

Senate Bill 252 proposes $45 million for each female-only facility and $5 million for the mental health facility though Carroll had requested $22 million.

In summary, Senate Bill 252 aims to establish a special mental health juvenile detention facility for high acuity youth in Kentucky with two female detention centers planned by February 1st, 2026 and an acute mental health facility constructed with support from the Department of Juvenile Justice and Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

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