A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky Supreme Court establishes statewide commission focused on mental health

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Since mental health issues affect a significant number of people involved with the court system, the Supreme Court of Kentucky has created a statewide commission focused on mental health, substance use, and intellectual disabilities.

The new Kentucky Judicial Commission on Mental Health will work to improve the practice, quality and timeliness of judicial response to cases involving these needs.

Justice Debra Hembree Lambert will serve as Chair of the Kentucky Judicial Commission on Mental Health. (Photo byTom Latek, Kentucky Today)

Supreme Court Chief Justice John D. Minton, Jr., told a press conference in the high court’s Capitol chambers, that of all the challenges in this post-pandemic world, “There is nothing that demands our focus, our innovative energy, and great creativity with greater urgency, than the public health crisis of our broken mental health system.”

To address that issue, Minton said, “I’m proud that the Kentucky Court of Justice is joining other state courts in addressing the growing mental health crisis within the justice system. The Judicial Branch is uniquely positioned to bring stakeholders together, to develop solutions to improve access to, and outcomes for, justice-involved individuals with mental and behavioral health needs.”

Minton asked Supreme Court Justice Debra Lambert to chair the commission since she is a certified suicide prevention trainer and former Drug Court judge, who has long had an interest in how mental health issues affect those who come before the courts.

Lambert said being Kentucky Strong is more than just a catchphrase. “From the western Kentucky tornadoes to the eastern Kentucky floods to hear of the work that is being done already in mental health in Kentucky, I can’t wait to sit down for our first meeting on Sept. 22 and hear what’s being done to remove the silos and bring us all together in a more efficient manner.”

She said the panel will examine where the court system touches cases involving mental health, substance use and intellectual disabilities.

“The commission will be in a position to recommend changes where needed, and offer best-practices training to judges, court personnel, law enforcement officers, mental health providers and community advocates as we implement a recovery-oriented system of care model.”

Gov. Andy Beshear told those on hand, the effort has the full support of his administration and he hopes it will keep people safe across the state.

“Ultimately help those who are maybe in the lowest and darkest part of their lives find the light and be connected with those professionals who go through so much training, to be there for them at that time.”

The commission will consist of representatives from the judicial and legal communities; the juvenile, criminal and child protection systems; the legislature; the business community; organizations with a substantial interest in mental health matters; and other state and local leaders who have demonstrated a commitment to mental health issues affecting Kentuckians.

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  1. Lorrie Hill says:

    This is great but we should be taking a 360 degree view of our courts that includes justice and integrity issues as well as judicial performance score cards. Kenton County deserves better.

  2. Fynness Solaris says:

    Jessamine Co. needs to revamp the present Judge sitting in for “Family Court” as he lacks experience dealing with those that are present in the courtroom. Lack of insight into placing people for Mental Health Counseling is apparent. There are many cases where people need to be evaluated for Mental Health Issues, but are not given the orders to do so, but rather keep the situation status quo so the money received is kept in Jessamine Co.. The families deserve better, the children deserve better but the Family Court System fails to recognize the need for counseling.

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