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$4.7M grant helps Ky. communities create mental health crisis response teams

Funding will help add mental health professionals to calls for help, provide appropriate treatment to individuals in crisis


Gov. Andy Beshear, shown here during a 2022 Lexington Fire Department press conference, announced Thursday the Cabinet for Health and Family Services has awarded $4.7 million to seven communities including Fayette County to start community crisis response teams.

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By Beth Musgrave
Lexington Herald-Leader

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Fayette County is one of seven Kentucky communities to receive grant funding to start a community-based crisis response to treat people who are experiencing mental health emergencies.

Gov. Andy Beshear announced Thursday the Cabinet for Health and Family Services has awarded $4.7 million to seven communities including Fayette County to start community crisis response teams. Other areas in Central Kentucky to receive funding is Boyle County.

Mental health advocates have long pushed for the creation of such teams. Many people with mental illnesses end up in jail without the treatment they need, advocates have long argued

Fayette County received $850,000 through the competitive grant process.

The grant will pay for one mental health professional who will accompany police on such calls. In addition, the money will also be used to help pay overtime for 45 Lexington police officers who have received specialized mental health training to respond to crisis calls.

The grant is for three years and the new crisis response team will start sometime this summer. The city will have to pay $85,000 for the program.

How many mental health paramedic calls does Lexington get?

Fire Capt. Seth Lockard, who oversees the city’s Community Paramedicine program, which helps with non-emergency medical calls and overdose prevention and intervention, said the newly formed crisis intervention team will likely work weekdays. Lockard said the department analyzed three years of data and determined most mental health crisis calls were during weekdays. Lexington police and fire worked together on the grant proposal.

The city receives approximately 3,000 mental health calls per year.

For many people in such crisis, the options are either a hospital emergency room or jail. The community response teams will help get those people appropriate treatment without costly inpatient hospitalizations or lengthy jail stays, Beshear said Thursday.

“With a mental health professional involved, we may be able to provide a more focused approach for the person in crisis,” Lockard said. “Ultimately it is all about the citizen in need, and what is best for them.”

Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton said the crisis response team will hopefully mean better, safer outcomes for those suffering from mental health problems.

“This is an enormous step forward in our ability to respond to mental health emergencies,” Gorton said. “It will make it possible for us to provide the most appropriate response to an individual in crisis and connect them to the best resource.”

More Kentucky cities use social worker for mental health calls

Providing more social workers to address mental health and non-emergency calls that do not require a police or fire response was first recommended by Gorton’s Commission on Racial Justice and Equality, which recommended 50 different changes in 2020.

Other Kentucky cities have also moved to crisis response teams for certain types of calls.

Alexandria was one of the first in Kentucky to do so in 2016. Nicholasville recently announced it was adding a social worker to its police force. Frankfort Police Department has two community policing advocates to help that department respond to non-emergency calls.

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