Critical Move: Senate Bill 252 Passes, Establishing Mental Health Facility for High Acuity Youth in Kentucky’s Juvenile Detention System

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

A bill that would establish a special mental health juvenile detention facility for “high acuity” youth has been moved forward by a Kentucky House committee. The sponsor, Sen. Danny Carroll, highlighted the importance of this bill, calling it a critical move. Senate Bill 252 has already passed the Senate and can now go to the full House for consideration.

As Wednesday marks the 57th day of the 60-day 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.

Additionally, 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 funding for these facilities is still uncertain as part of Kentucky’s two-year budget is not yet finalized, Senator Carroll emphasized the urgency of establishing this mental health facility for youth in the justice system

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