Staffing shortages impact Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center

Staffing shortages impact Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center
Published: Jun. 9, 2023 at 5:22 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - According to the Wall Street Journal, mentally ill people accused of crimes spend extended times in jail while waiting for treatment to stand trial.

One criminal defense attorney in Lexington says competency evaluations or assessments that used to take just weeks after entering jail now could take months.

“Criminal defense and mental health issues, a lot of times, run hand and hand,” said attorney Abe Mashni.

Part of Mashni’s job is to advocate for his clients, and sometimes that means raising the issue of competency.

“Not only do they have to be able to participate in their defense, but they also have to, at the time of the commission of the offense allegedly, they have to be able to appreciate the consequence of their actions,” said Mashni.

However, once the issue is raised, all proceedings come to a pause until they get the determination of competency.

“That’s why you see a backlog of cases because you can’t enter a guilty plea,” said Mashni. “You can’t go to trial until that issue is resolved.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that staffing shortages at the Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center have left more than 50 beds empty and unused.

Mashni says while he doesn’t blame KCPC for the holdup, he says the problem could be addressed through legislation.

“Nowadays, it is months and months and months. I mean, it’s not uncommon to have six months to a year, and that’s just based on limited resources and a backlog of cases that needs to happen,” said Mashni.

Mashni says that with the help of telehealth and virtual options, it could help speed up the process for the time being.