Justice Department Launches Civil Rights Investigation into Kentucky’s Mental Health Service System
(STL.News) The Department of Justice announced today that it had opened an investigation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into whether the Commonwealth of Kentucky subjects adults with serious mental illness living in the Louisville/Jefferson County Metro area to unnecessary institutionalization, and serious risk of institutionalization, in psychiatric hospitals. 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.
“When people do not receive the community-based mental health services they need, they often get caught in a cycle of psychiatric hospital stays,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This investigation also seeks to ensure that people with serious mental illness are not unnecessarily brought into contact with law enforcement. The Civil Rights Division is committed to enforcing the ADA so that people with disabilities are able to receive the services they need and qualify for, and that their civil rights are protected.”
“A state must make reasonable accommodations and provide appropriate community-based services to people with disabilities,” said U.S. Attorney Michael A. Bennett for the Western District of Kentucky. “Our office will vigorously enforce the ADA. Our fellow citizens with mental health disabilities deserve nothing less.”
This investigation is separate from the Justice Department’s ongoing pattern or practice investigation into the Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government (Louisville Metro) and the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD). That investigation is examining several issues, including Louisville Metro and LMPD’s systems for responding to people experiencing behavioral health crises. In addition, the Special Litigation Section of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C., and the Civil Division of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Kentucky, in Louisville, are jointly conducting both investigations.
Prior to the announcement, the department informed the offices of Kentucky’s Governor and Attorney General of the investigation’s initiation.