Bills benefit Kentuckians with severe mental illness and first responders after critical incidents
FRANKFORT, Ky. (June 22, 2022) – Today, Gov. Beshear hosted a ceremonial signing for two bills that help more Kentuckians, including first-responders, access mental health services.
First, the Governor signed House Bill 127, which expands access to assisted outpatient treatment. This form of mental health treatment is a partnership between the courts, the health care system and the people of Kentucky. It allows the courts to order outpatient care for individuals with severe mental illness.
Since 2017, Kentucky, along with 47 other states, has offered court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment. This method of court-ordered mental health care ensures that individuals with severe mental illness get the treatment they need when they are not capable of seeking it out on their own. Tim’s Law also allows individuals with severe mental illness to receive treatment without being involuntarily hospitalized.
HB 127 expands Tim’s Law in three ways:
- It allows for expanded access to those who would benefit from outpatient treatment by modifying the criteria;
- It requires a more thorough evaluation of individuals who may receive court-ordered treatment; and
- It helps cover additional treatment costs necessary to ensure successful re-entry and participation in the community.
“Providing care to individuals with severe mental illness is crucial to the health and success of the commonwealth,” Gov. Beshear said. “This law gives our people more options to get treatment and to keep them out of institutions. This has a positive impact on the patients, their families, the courts and the community at large.”
“With this mental health treatment option, we are helping Kentuckians struggling to get the help they need,” said Rep. Ken Fleming, who cosponsored House Bill 127. “Tim’s Law is the first step toward building a system of care for those at risk so that they can chart a new path forward on the road to recovery. It’s about making sure they have the right tools and services available to avoid this revolving door situation in our judicial system.”
“On behalf of the Kentucky District Judges Association, I assure you that our judges are eager and anxious to help implement assisted outpatient treatment programs statewide,” said District Court Judge Stephanie Pearce Burke, a key advocate for the bill. “I want to thank Rep. Fleming and Rep. Willner for their time and commitment, and also to Sen. Julie Raque Adams who has advocated for this measure since 2017.”
Second, the Governor signed House Bill 562, which helps first responders get the mental health care they need. The bill allows peace officers and firefighters to take 48 hours leave after being involved in a critical incident. These types of incidents cover a range of events from car accidents to the death of a colleague.
“This legislation allows first responders to have time to seek mental health care after a traumatizing incident at work. This helps the first responder, their family and the community they serve take the time they need to recover,” Gov. Beshear said. “It also protects the first responders’ employment by allowing them to take the time they need for their mental health without fear of losing their job.”
“I filed this legislation after talking with Eastern Kentucky Pastor Joshua Ratliff, who takes great pride in counseling first responders and happens to be one himself,” said Rep. Ashley Tackett Laferty, the sponsor of House Bill 562. “He believed these brave men and women deserve time off after responding to a traumatic incident, and I am proud that my General Assembly colleagues unanimously agreed. I want to thank them as well as Gov. Beshear for highlighting this critical issue at today’s bill-signing ceremony.”
“This bill will help protect first responders by giving them time to process the events after a critical incident and begin seeking help,” said Pastor Josh Ratliff, who is a captain in the Middle Creek Volunteer Fire Department, where he serves as chaplain, as well as with the Floyd County Rescue Squad. “I hope this bill will start to help reduce post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide rates.”
Note to editors: Video of today’s press conference is available here.