Study Reveals Gaps in Behavioral Health Services for Louisville’s Vulnerable Youth

Kentucky Youth Advocates and Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence Lead Collaborative Effort to Identify Solutions and Address Barriers  

Mara Powell

LOUISVILLE, KY – Kentucky Youth Advocates, in partnership with the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence, conducted 10 virtual focus groups and disseminated an online survey to learn more about behavioral health supports and services available to youth in Louisville, along with gaps in services and proposed solutions to close those gaps.

“The Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence is dedicated to improving the health of our adolescent youth, because we believe promoting adolescent wellness now is critical to their future well-being and also to the health and welfare of future generations. We are proud to support collaborative efforts to strengthen Louisville’s behavioral health system to ensure young people are provided the services and supports they need to overcome adversity and thrive,” said Jeff Polson, President and CEO,  Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence.

The focus group and survey results, as depicted in a new infographic and more detailed report, show that youth are most often referred to behavioral health services by the school system, as a discharge plan from a residential facility or hospital, or as a requirement by Child Protective Services or as court-ordered treatment. The research also revealed that barriers and gaps in services exist, often affecting some groups of youth more than others. Survey and focus group participants shared that, among other barriers, there are not enough diverse behavioral healthcare providers, service providers are not working closely together to ensure continuity of care, and cost, transportation, and access to services were concerns prior and during the pandemic.

“We’ve heard repeatedly the critical difference that just ONE caring adult in a young person’s life can make in their life trajectory.Yet, the reality is that our youth with lower socioeconomic status, youth of color, young people experiencing homelessness or trafficking victims, and undocumented youth are even more vulnerable. If we don’t take real steps in improving community collaboration and addressing gaps in behavioral health services, more youth will fall through the cracks of care,” said Dr. Terry Brooks, Executive Director, Kentucky Youth Advocates.

The focus groups and survey garnered responses from nearly 100 individuals in various professions, including pediatricians, behavioral health providers, residential treatment facilities, juvenile justice system staff­, community support organizations, case managers, educators, as well as parents and youth. The outreach garnered several solutions and ideas for improvement within Louisville’s behavioral health system, including:

  • Improve the cultural relevance of care, training and developing more providers of color, and providing interpreter services for patients not fluent in English.
  • Establish more preventive programming for youth to access, including mentorship and community centers at low or no cost to youth to provide support.
  • Increase community collaboration among providers, community members, and schools in order to make sure youth get access to services they need.
  • Bring behavioral health services into existing locations where youth are, such as primary care offices, community centers, and libraries, to create a more integrated environment.
  • Provide youth with more options that are affordable or accept their insurance to improve access for all youth.

Register to join Kentucky Youth Advocates and the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence on Tuesday, May 11, 2021 9:30 AM – 12:00 PM for Closing the Gaps in Behavioral Health Care for Kids, a virtual summit to encourage healthier and more resilient kids in Louisville. Attendees will learn more about the recent research surveying the landscape of Louisville’s behavioral system for kids, and connect with providers, advocates, professionals who work with youth, and others as we develop solutions to close the gaps for kids in that system.

View the full report and download the infographic at


Kentucky Youth Advocates believes all children deserve to be safe, healthy, and secure. As THE independent voice for Kentucky’s children, we work to ensure policymakers create investments and policies that are good for children. Learn more at