Alvarado receives children’s champion award

State Senator Ralph Alvarado, chair of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, R-Winchester, was awarded the “Champion for Children Award” by the “Children’s Alliance”, a state association of 37 private agencies that provide foster care and behavioral health services to Kentucky’s most vulnerable children and families. Sen. Alvarado received the award for his leadership during the 2021 Legislative Session in sponsoring SB 21, which ensures homeless youth, age 16 or older, can access mental health services.

Currently, most youths are not able to access mental health services from a licensed professional unless they have parental permission, which is often difficult for homeless youth not living with their parents to obtain. SB 21 allows any qualified mental health professional to provide outpatient mental health counseling to any child who is age 16 or older and is an unaccompanied youth.

SB 21 also allows for the voluntary transport of a child to a hospital or psychiatric facility when the appropriate authorizations are in place. Sen. Alvarado, who is a medical physician, sponsored SB 21 as a commonsense measure to eliminate unnecessary barriers that are preventing children from receiving mental health services.

There are approximately 2,500 youth who are defined as unaccompanied youth in Kentucky. Ensuring access to mental health counseling for unaccompanied homeless youth will save youth’s lives as we know:

• Homeless high school students in Kentucky are 6.5 times more likely to attempt suicide than housed students.

• 41% of unaccompanied homeless youth in Louisville and Southern Indiana have been victims of sex trafficking at least once in a single year. That’s one of every two females and one of three males, with the average age of their first such experience being 16 years old.

Sen. Alvarado, who represents Kentucky’s 28rd District, which includes Clark and Montgomery counties, and part of Fayette County, was honored with the award on May 26, 2021, at the Children’s Alliance annual membership meeting by Children’s Alliance President, Michelle Sanborn.

“It is a great honor to present the “Champion for Children Award” to Sen. Alvarado, who is a strong advocate in Frankfort for Kentucky’s children and families. His extraordinary efforts to ensuring Kentucky’s children and families have access to mental health care should be commended,” said Ms. Sanborn. “Sen. Alvarado is a true Champion for Children and his compassion and unwavering leadership are truly appreciated.” This is the second time Sen. Alvarado has been presented with the Champion for Children Award, as he was also recognized in 2018 for his leadership as Chair of the Senate Budget Review Subcommittee on Human Resources, where he fought to secure additional funding to ensure the continued availability of intensive residential services for the hundreds of state foster children that need them.

“As we continue to face challenges related to mental health in the Commonwealth, particularly in light of COVID-19, it is important that we ensure proper and accessible care for all Kentuckians, especially our most vulnerable youth,” said Sen. Alvarado. “I was proud to sponsor this piece of legislation and would like to thank Children’s Alliance for this recognition.”

The Children’s Alliance, Kentucky’s voice for at-risk children and families, has existed for 60 years and is comprised of private, child, and family services agencies throughout Kentucky, which serve at-risk, abused, neglected, and abandoned children and their families.