Kentucky Judicial Commission on Mental Health Summit first of its kind in state

Photo caption: More than 1,000 people attended the inaugural Kentucky Judicial Commission on Mental Health Summit held May 31-June 2 at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville.

Contact: Jim Hannah, Communications Director, 502-573-2350 ext. 50031

FRANKFORT, Ky., June 7, 2023 – The more than 1,000 people who attended the first Kentucky Judicial Commission on Mental Health Summit have returned to their communities with a challenge from the commonwealth’s chief justice.

“Make a difference,” Chief Justice of the Commonwealth Laurance B. VanMeter said during the closing session of the summit. “We cannot do this without you. Stay involved. Ask the right questions. We can change the way we do business together.”

The summit took place over two-and-a-half days (May 31-June 2) in Louisville. With 1,106 registered attendees, over 100 speakers, 64 sessions and 36 exhibitors, the summit is believed to be the largest gathering of mental-health-involved legal professionals held in Kentucky.

“We have broken new ground in the field of mental health with this historic summit,” Deputy Chief Justice Debra Hembree Lambert, chair of the Kentucky Judicial Commission on Mental Health, said after the summit. “From this work, we will improve court processes and timelines and work across disciplines to better deliver much needed services to our citizens.”

The KJCMH hosted the summit to gather court partners to explore more effective responses to people who have entered the justice system and are experiencing challenges with mental health, substance use and intellectual disabilities. The summit provided an opportunity to discuss, develop and implement a comprehensive continuum of responses for Kentucky courts and their communities.

Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman pointed out the mix of attendees. She was among the summit’s openers, who included speakers from all three branches of government.

“You have both parties represented,” she said. “You have urban and rural represented. You have the fields of law, education and health care all up here together to show this is a top priority in the state of Kentucky.”

Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser of Taylor Mill, also a speaker at the opening, said she is committed to improving support for justice-involved people with needs related to mental health, substance use and intellectual disabilities. She is chair of the Health Services Committee in the Kentucky House of Representatives, a retired neonatal intensive care unit nurse and former director of the Northern Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy.

“The devil is always in the detail and that is where you are going to come in,” Moser said to attendees. “You are the experts. You are the partners who we will be looking to to really make these systemic changes.”

Senate President Pro Tem David P. Givens of Greensburg told attendees the summit would assure, encourage and challenge. He urged them to “lean in ... be a player, not a participant.”

Bureau of Justice Assistance Director Karhlton F. Moore provided a national perspective. The bureau is part of the federal Department of Justice and provides leadership and assistance to local criminal justice programs. Moore said training, technical assistance and engagement are key components in making the systemic changes needed to improve outcomes of justice-involved individuals.

“I want to spend some time talking about the important role courts have played not only in our past but in our present to move our nation, our communities, forward and deal with challenges that so many people face throughout our country,” he said. “For far too long there has been shame in dealing with issues of mental illness. It’s about time that shame went away. Summits like this go a long way in making sure that happens.”

The summit featured speakers from California to Florida. Sessions covered topics including aging with serious mental illness; adolescent substance use trends; behavioral health issues among veterans; and the right to mental health treatment for trafficking survivors.

Two other sessions grouped attendees by counties or regions to identify priorities for improving how courts and communities respond to individuals experiencing mental illness, substance use disorder and intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. Attendees then worked to create strategies for achieving each priority.

Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Eric Friedlander encouraged attendees to take what they had learned back home. “Do this because local solutions are often the answer,” he said.

Established in August 2022, the KJCMH meets quarterly and is divided into three committees that each focus on one of these three topics: criminal justice, civil and family justice, and treatment and access. Each committee has created workgroups that are focusing their efforts on juvenile justice; competency; prearrest/diversion; dependency, neglect and abuse; domestic violence; guardianship and commitment; strengthening community responses; court responses to mental health and substance use; and intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The public is invited to become involved with the KJCMH. To learn more about the commission or join a workgroup, please visit or email


Photo caption: Chief Justice of the Commonwealth Laurance B. VanMeter addresses more than 1,000 attendees at the inaugural Kentucky Judicial Commission on Mental Health Summit held May 31-June 2 in Louisville