FRANKFORT, KY — Gov. Andy Beshear on Wednesday ceremonially signed two bills supporting access to mental health care in Kentucky.
Beshear ceremonially signed House Bill 127 and House Bill 562 Wednesday.
The governor's office says HB 127 expands access to court ordered assisted outpatient mental health treatments through Tim's Law. The mental health treatments are offered as part of a partnership among the state's court system and the health care system. Kentucky has offered these court-ordered treatments for people with severe mental illness since 2017. The governor's office says the law allows people to get the treatment they need when they're not able to get it on their own. It also allows people to receive treatment without involuntary hospitalization.
Beshear's office says HB 127 expands Tim's Law by changing criteria to allow more people to access outpatient treatment, requiring more thorough evaluation of people who receive court-ordered treatment and helping cover additional treatment costs needed to help patients successfully reenter their communities.
“Providing care to individuals with severe mental illness is crucial to the health and success of the commonwealth,” Beshear said in a statement released Wednesday. “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.”
District Court Judge Stephanie Pearce Burke, who advocated for the bill, said in a statement that judges are "eager and anxious to help implement assisted outpatient treatment programs statewide." Burke thanked Reps. Ken Fleming and Lisa Willner for their commitment to getting the measure passed, as well as Sen. Julie Raque Adams, who Burke says has advocated for the measure since 2017.
Beshear's office says HB 562 will help first responders access mental health care. It allows law enforcement officers and firefighters to take a 48 hour leave after they're involved in a critical incident, such as an accident or the death of a colleague.
The governor says the measure will help first responders take the time they need to recover after a critical incident and "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,” bill sponsor Rep. Ashley Tackett Laferty said in a statement. “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.”
Adams, who is the Senate majority caucus chair, also released a statement about the bills on Wednesday.
"The enactment of these two bills are two of several policy initiatives lawmakers have united to make law. Allowing our first responders the critical time to process, recognize and support their mental health needs while refining Tim's Law strengthens our efforts to help those engaging the judicial system due to their mental illness," the statement reads in part. "As we are putting COVID-19 behind us, we are learning more about its devastating impacts on mental health. We continue to combat the harms of opioid addiction and face economic challenges while fighting to prevent child abuse and neglect. I remain committed to helping heal our communities and people to the greatest extent I can in the capacity I serve. I know my colleagues will join me."