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New report recommends 'significant changes' to improve mental health services in Indiana

Posted at 3:50 PM, Sep 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-28 15:50:37-04

INDIANAPOLIS — A new report on mental and behavioral health services in Indiana recommends "significant changes to substantially improve" services across the state.

The 61-page report from the Behavioral Health Commission addresses several gaps it found with services and acknowledges some recommendations have a "significant price tag." It also estimates untreated mental illness costs the state $4.2 billion annually.

The commission was created by a bill from State Sen. Mike Crider, R-District 28. He authored the bill to address several concerns from state and community leaders to examine the behavioral health system in the state.

A diverse group of people, including CEOs, professors, state employees, state and local officials, law enforcement leaders and medical professionals, make up the commission.

The report lays out several recommendations and the commission said these strategies were proposed while trying to mitigate a long-term impact on the state budget.

One strategy, for example, recommends the General Assembly use the new national push to 988 to create a new crisis response system in the state.

According to the report, the General Assembly could adopt a surcharge on phone bills to provide create a three-part system:

  1. Create 988 call centers for people to contact
  2. Create mobile crisis teams to respond
  3. Create crisis stabilization units to provide a safe place for people to get help

The commission said this, and increasing the number of mental health courts, would help ease the burden of mental illness on the criminal justice system.

Several other areas to address include improving the overall mental health and well-being of Hoosiers, improving mental health literacy, have enough trained mental health professionals to create a workforce and funding.

You can read the full report below.

Brandon George, the director of the Indiana Addictions Issues Coalition, said the report provides direction and an idea of what needs to be worked on.

"I've been a part of a lot of change in our community in our state," George said. "And the steps laid out in this report would result in the biggest system transformation that I've seen or that it's happened in the last several decades, most likely."

He said the recommendations in the report will allow for services to get deeper into communities and connect with people whom it has been much harder to reach in the past.

"It will really focus on making sure that we treat this as a public health issue," he said. "It is not just public safety. We've been screaming for two years 'We can't arrest our way out of this.' Guess what we're doing? We're arresting our way out of this. And so the focus is on this intersection of public safety and public health."

He said he thinks the recommendations laid out in this report could help hundreds of thousands of Hoosier who struggle with mental health and substance use disorders.

"I hope that the General Assembly reads this report and sees the way that the advocates that I've talked to have, and that is a beacon in the right direction," George said.

He said he hopes people will look at the report and demand action on it.

"I think that our people in the community need to demand that action. We've got everybody I know is touched by alcoholism, addiction, mental health, especially since the pandemic. And we need to really make sure voices are heard, that this is a big issue," he said.