How Indiana invested in mental health this session

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File photo of the Statehouse.

INDIANAPOLIS — Hoosiers should see more access to mental health resources thanks to Indiana lawmakers this session.

They gave more money to the cause and allowed more people to treat and diagnose mental health issues.

If lawmakers were to get a mental health report card in 2021, Mental Health America of Indiana President and CEO Steve McCaffrey said he would give them an A this year.

“And I wouldn’t say that many years, honestly,” said McCaffrey.

He wouldn’t have expected that in January when legislators planned to cut mental health funding due to lost revenue from the pandemic. However, positive economic forecasts allowed lawmakers to restore the $26 million Indiana gives to mental health. The statehouse also added $150 million in federal money.

“We have a tremendous workforce shortage in behavioral health and so, it’s important to get the money but now we have to figure out how to use it appropriately,” said McCaffrey.

State Sen. Mike Crider helped get Indiana started on a 988 mental health crisis line for Indiana. It won’t be ready until July of next year.

“This would be a portal that would figure out what are the needed services, who best needs to be on the scene, and would include mobile crisis units,” said McCaffrey.

Sen. Crider also worked on a law that adds 10,000 mental health providers in Indiana.

“Senate Bill 82 allows for properly trained licensed clinical social workers family marriage therapists and folks to do a diagnosis of mental illness and so we are hopeful that will allow us to move more folks into treatment more effectively and more quickly,” said Crider.

Indiana also made progress on providing virtual mental health services.

“Telehealth actually helps because we can reach into rural areas where there is not a workforce, we can reach into a lot of shortage areas which frankly is most of Indiana,” said McCaffrey.

Crider said he believes virtual visits will be preferred by many, especially those who may be embarrassed to seek help in person.

“Too often people allow the stigma around mental health discussion to keep them from reaching for help,” said Crider.

Though progress was made, this doesn’t mean lawmakers don’t need to address mental health next session.

“There’s more to do but for now given the situation we are in with the pandemic and everything else you have to chalk this up as a big success for mental health and addiction,” said McCaffrey.

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