LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Both candidates for Governor of Kentucky say mental health is a critical issue. The KFF, a health policy and polling agency, reports that in February, 37.4% of adults in the state reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depressive disorder. They also say the state is currently meeting only 24.2% of the need for mental health care professionals.
Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear said this summer that he believes the Commonwealth has made progress under his administration. “We’re proud to report that Kentucky is ranked number one in the area of adult mental health based on Mental Health America’s rankings. These rankings show that we’ve been working hard in Kentucky to address a very challenging field but being committed to getting it done,” Beshear said.
The incumbent governor noted several steps his administration has taken to improve mental health in the state. “We’ve prioritized families by extending Medicaid benefits to children and women who are pregnant or postpartum to support their mental and physical health,” he shared.
Beshear also pointed to legislation to expand access to outpatient treatment for mental illness, mental health resources for police and firefighters, and expanding mental health resources for students as important advances. He said his administration signed legislation to make telehealth more available, created the Kentucky Judicial Mental Health Commission, supported mental health services for victims of natural disasters and trained law enforcement on handling mental health crisis situations.
“Mental health care is health care just as important as any form of physical health care and I’m glad the work we’ve been doing is being noticed around the country,” the governor concluded.
Republican challenger Attorney General Daniel Cameron blames Beshear’s actions during the pandemic for making the situation worse than it needed to be. “I certainly believe mental health is a great challenge that we have here in the Commonwealth and it was exacerbated by the fact that we put people in silos and kept them from seeing people for almost two years,” Cameron said.
Cameron said that was the governor’s decision. “He decided to shut down so much of our industry, so much of our health care system, and we are now dealing with the ramifications of that,” he explained.
The Republican candidate said he wanted to work with state lawmakers. He pointed to his efforts with opioid abatement to secure mental health funding. “I’ve been fighting vigorously on the front of the opioid epidemic. I brought in nearly $900 million into the state to address the mental health challenges to help with opioid abatement,” Cameron said.
Mental health efforts in the state are coordinated by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services through the Division of Behavioral Health, which handles the administration of state and federally funded services. They offer treatment through four branches:
Adult Mental Health and Recovery Services
Adult Substance Abuse Treatment and Recovery Services
Behavioral Health Prevention and Promotion
Children’s Behavioral Health and Recovery Services
Election day is Nov. 7, when Kentucky voters will choose who they want to occupy the state’s six executive offices.