Feds say they are investigating whether state hospitalizes too many Louisville metro-area residents who have mental illness

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

The U.S. Department of Justice says it is investigating whether adults with severe mental illness in the Louisville metropolitan area are being subjected to excessive institutionalization in psychiatric hospitals.

“When people do not receive the community-based mental health services they need, they often get caught in a cycle of psychiatric hospital stays,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a May 24 news release. “This investigation also seeks to ensure that people with serious mental illness are not unnecessarily brought into contact with law enforcement.”

The department said it was acting under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The release said, “The investigation will examine whether Kentucky unnecessarily segregates people with serious mental illness in psychiatric hospitals and places them at risk of law enforcement encounters by failing to provide integrated community-based mental health services needed to avoid these results.”

Gov. Andy Beshear said when asked about the probe two days later that he was “perplexed” by the announcement of it, saying his administration was notified about an hour in advance and the Justice Department had not gathered any data or information on this issue prior to issuing the release.

“I certainly wish, if they were going to claim they’re announcing an investigation, they would have come to us and gotten facts to see whether putting out a release like that was appropriate or not,” Beshear said, adding that his administration would cooperate with the investigation.

“I hope we’ll learn more and when we do we’ll be completely transparent about it,” he said. “If this is something that helps us do better, we want to do better. But this is something that requires both sides to be communicating. We look forward to communicating with them.”

Individuals with relevant information are encouraged to contact the department via email at Community.Kentucky@usdoj.gov or through the Civil Rights Division’s Civil Rights Portal, available at https://civilrights.justice.gov/.
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