FRANKFORT — A Louisville legislator has pre-filed legislation that would reverse a proposal by Gov. Steve Beshear to build more psychiatric treatment facilities for young people.
Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville, pre-filed the bill Thursday that, if passed, would put the breaks on the Beshear proposal to add up to eight 50-bed psychiatric units for adolescents who are being treated now at out-of-state facilities.
The governor is pushing for the hospitals despite a unanimous vote by the Administrative Regulations Review Subcommittee against it and strong opposition from the state's hospital and nursing home associations.
Hospital and health care officials say the state is trying to go around its own certificate of need process, a lengthy procedure that hospitals and health care facilities must complete before adding a facility or beds.
"What we're trying to do is keep them from circumventing the law," Burch said. "All I'm trying to do is protect the governor. I'm not trying to make him look bad. I know that there will be lawsuits over this."
Burch, who chairs the House Health and Welfare Committee, said he will hold a hearing on Wednesday about the proposal to add psychiatric beds.
At its Sept. 8 meeting, the Administrative Regulations Review Subcommittee unanimously voted against the change after widespread opposition from mental health advocates and the state's hospitals. The hospitals say the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which oversees psychiatric treatment, was trying to fast-track the proposal even though there have been discussions for more than 25 years about bringing kids back to Kentucky for treatment.
There are about 230 children with severe physical and psychological problems who receive long-term treatment at out-of-state facilities.
But Beshear sent the Administrative Regulations Review Subcommittee a letter in late September saying he was overriding its decision and planned to move forward with the hospitals. The state spends about $17 million on out-of-state care. That money should be spent in Kentucky, cabinet officials said.
"The governor and I are on the same page," Burch said. "We want to bring these kids back home. But we have a procedure in place; let's follow that procedure."
Burch said he talked to Beshear for an hour Thursday and asked his friend of more than 20 years to wait at least a month before moving forward with the proposal. Burch said he does not know how much support the measure would have in the Democratic-controlled House or the Republican-controlled Senate.
Jill Midkiff, a spokeswoman for Beshear, said Friday that "Governor Beshear had a productive meeting with Representative Burch, and although they may disagree on the process, they do agree that we need to bring these children back to Kentucky."
"This is just a draft," Burch said of the legislation.