INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana lawmakers say they plan to work on legislation that would increase funding for mental health next session.
Earlier this month, the Indiana Behavioral Health Commission issued a report saying the state needs to increase funding for mental health services by 60% over the next four years.
In recent weeks, lawmakers and mental health advocates have been in talks about potential legislation to be considered early next year.
“It’s critical to start building out a system that works and stop relying so much on our criminal justice system to pick up the slack,” said Kelby Gaw of Mental Health America of Indiana.
Gaw said one of the first ways she hopes to see that happen is long-term funding for the 988 suicide and mental health crisis lifeline, which went live nationwide in July.
Indiana has approved short-term funding, but State Sen. Michael Crider (R-Greenfield) is leading efforts to create a permanent funding mechanism.
“There will be a list of of items that are available for funding since all communities don’t have the same exact needs,” Crider explained.
Crider said he wants to create a $1 surcharge on phone bills to fund lifeline operations and response services. That would generate around $100 million per year, he explained.
He also wants to use additional state funding for mental health services.
“There’s a real desire to expand the certified community behavioral health centers across the state, increase the capacity of those,” he said.
State Sen. Fady Qaddoura (D-Indianapolis) is calling for a $250 million state investment, which would include funding for teams of first responders and ways to recruit and retain more mental health care workers.
“The workforce development so that we can cultivate more professionals in the mental health field to serve across the state,” Qaddoura explained.
Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville) said Thursday funding for mental health – and public health as a whole – will be prioritized next session. But funding may be gradually increased over a few years, he added.
“We have a lot of money right now, but we don’t know what the economic forecast for the next couple of years will be,” Bray said. “We’re going to rely heavily on the forecast that comes in December.”
Legislation will be drafted closer to the start of the new legislative session in January.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached by dialing 988.
To find mental health services near you, click here.