DOJ opens civil rights probe into how Kentucky treats mentally ill in Louisville | News

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — The US Justice Department is launching a civil rights investigation into how Louisville and Jefferson County treat people with serious mental illness.

In a release, the DOJ said it was launching the investigation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into whether 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 civil rights investigation will focus on whether Kentucky unnecessarily segregates people with serious mental illness in psychiatric hospitals because it fails to provide mental health services in the community. The result may put those with mental illness at greater risk of encounters with law enforcement.

“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 in the release. “This investigation also seeks to ensure that people with serious mental illness are not unnecessarily brought into contact with law enforcement.”

The investigation is separate from the Justice Department’s ongoing investigation into the Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government (Louisville Metro) and the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD). That investigation is already looking into how the city and police respond to people experiencing behavioral health crises.

The investigation is being handled by the Special Litigation Section of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, in Washington, DC, and the Civil Division of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Kentucky, in Louisville.

The offices of Kentucky’s Governor and Attorney General have been notified of the investigation, according to the release.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear’s office released the following statement on Tuesday afternoon:

“The administration continues to prioritize Kentuckians’ mental health. Governor Beshear has signed legislation requiring mental health to be treated equally with physical health and has worked to expand Medicaid coverage and telehealth services, which make behavioral services more accessible. It is our understanding that the Department of Justice inquiry is about whether more individuals who are being institutionalized could be receiving community-based services, which is typically a determination made via court order. get the services they deserve.”

Anyone with information relevant to the investigation is asked to email or through the Civil Rights Division’s Civil Rights Portal, available at

This story may be updated.

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