Jailer: Inmate’s story is proof that state’s mental health system is broken

Nelson County Jailer

Friday, June 14, 2024 — In August 2023, I encountered a woman whose plight has become emblematic of the severe issues plaguing our mental health system in Kentucky. This woman, whom I’ll call Jane for the sake of privacy, was arrested and found to be severely mentally ill. Recognizing her dire need for medical intervention, our team, including both our medical staff and mental health provider, did everything within our power to assist her. Yet, despite our best efforts, we hit a wall.


Jane’s condition was such that jail was the last place she should have been. She needed long-term treatment in a mental health hospital, not a cell. But our system failed her. For nine long months, Jane sat in a single cell, her condition undoubtedly worsening with each passing day. Nine months of waiting, hoping, and battling the bureaucratic red tape that seemed intent on keeping her from the help she desperately needed.

Today, after nine excruciating months, we finally managed to get Jane to a mental hospital with the assistance of the County Attorneys Office and Courts. Nine months—nearly a year of her life lost in limbo because our mental health system couldn’t or wouldn’t expedite her transfer. This experience is one of many that left me disgusted and disheartened. No one should have to endure such a prolonged wait for essential mental health care.

Jane’s story is a stark reminder that our mental health system in Kentucky is broken. We need substantial reforms to ensure that those like Jane receive timely and appropriate care. We must advocate for changes that prioritize the health and safety of our most vulnerable citizens.

The system failed Jane, and it is our responsibility to ensure it does not continue to fail others.


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