FRANKFORT, Ky., Aug. 10, 2022 – With mental health issues affecting a significant number of people involved with the court system, the Supreme Court of Kentucky is creating a statewide commission focused on mental health, substance use and intellectual disabilities. The new Kentucky Judicial Commission on Mental Health will work to improve the practice, quality and timeliness of judicial response to cases involving these needs.
The Supreme Court will launch the commission at a news conference on Thursday, Aug. 11, at 2 p.m. ET in the Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol, 700 Capital Ave., Frankfort. The public and media are invited to attend.
“I’m proud that the Kentucky Court of Justice is joining other state courts in addressing the growing mental health crisis within the justice system,” Chief Justice of Kentucky John D. Minton Jr. said. “The Judicial Branch is uniquely positioned to bring stakeholders together to develop solutions to improve access to and outcomes for justice-involved individuals with mental and behavioral health needs.”
Chief Justice Minton has asked Supreme Court Justice Debra Hembree Lambert to chair the commission. Justice Lambert is a certified suicide prevention trainer and former Drug Court judge who has long had an interest in how mental health issues affect those who come before the courts.
“I’m excited to focus on mental health and substance use cases, but this will also be the first time there will be an all-hands-on-board effort to assess and improve the way the court handles intellectual disabilities,” Justice Lambert said. “And no group this broad and with this many resources has ever come together to tackle all three of these important issues.”
Justice Lambert said that the Kentucky Judicial Commission on Mental Health will examine where the court system touches cases involving mental health, substance use and intellectual disabilities.
“The commission will be in a position to recommend changes where needed, and offer best-practices training to judges, court personnel, law enforcement officers, mental health providers and community advocates as we implement a recovery oriented system of care model,” she said.
The commission membership will be composed of representatives from the judicial and legal communities; the juvenile, criminal and child protection systems; the legislature; the business community; organizations with a substantial interest in mental health matters; and other state and local leaders who have demonstrated a commitment to mental health issues affecting Kentuckians.
The commission members will meet for the first time Sept. 22.
Supreme Court of Kentucky
The Supreme Court is the state court of last resort and the final interpreter of Kentucky law. Seven justices sit on the Supreme Court and all seven justices rule on appeals that come before the court. The justices are elected from seven appellate districts and serve eight-year terms. A chief justice, chosen for a four-year term by fellow justices, is the administrative head of the state’s court system and is responsible for its operation. The Supreme Court may order a ruling or opinion to be published, which means that the ruling becomes the case law governing all similar cases in the future in Kentucky.