In an effort to ensure Kentucky is not incarcerating those who are struggling, the state House approved a bill Tuesday evening to ensure behavioral and mental health assessments for those with low-level offenses that could ensure they get the help they need rather than being incarcerated.
Senate Bill 90, sponsored by Sen. Whitney Westerfield, would set up a pilot program in at least 10 Kentucky counties to require a mental and/or behavioral health assessment early on in the process when an individual is charged with a Class D felony.
With the assessment, performed by a provider from a rotating list, the provider would decide if treatment was a more suitable solution than incarceration to help someone with substance use disorder. Within 30 days of the course of treatment, the individual would receive a vocational assessment. Within 10 days of that assessment, the treatment provider would work with the Kentucky Workforce Cabinet to get placed in job training or a job.
In presenting the bill on the floor, Rep. Ed Massey said this proposal has been in process for over a year as many individuals are picked up for possession charges who are dealing with substance use disorder or behavioral health issues and they do not get the help they need to get better and end up being “regular players in the system.”
He stated with the bill, the state is creating a program from the ground up that will help with re-entry, get people back into the workforce, and keep people out of incarceration.
The legislation passed the House with floor amendments dealing with housing and use of a digital platform by treatment facilities to enhance re-entry services.
Senate Bill 90 now moves back to the Senate for consideration of concurrence with the changes made in the House.