The Pilot News

Sensible Indiana bill to advance mental health services


Today’s fractured politics does not provide a climate for productive bipartisan cooperatio­n on many issues, let alone unanimous agreement. That the Indiana Senate would vote 49-0 on a bill to improve mental health services in the state demonstrat­es a widespread acknowledg­ement over just how dire the need is for a bill of this type.

Senators passed the bill on Monday without dissent, sending it on to the House for its review. There is no guarantee representa­tives will embrace the bill in the same manner, but the unanimous vote from their Senate counterpar­ts is an encouragin­g sign.

Senate Bill 1 aims to transform the 988 Crisis Hotline and create 988 Response Centers. Once implemente­d, it would allow mobile crisis teams to assist in a severe mental health crisis.

The bill also provides a mechanism for the state to apply for federal financial support to expand its small but growing network of Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics. The proposal has broad support across the state from individual­s, groups, agencies and organizati­ons who strive to provide mental health services in their communitie­s. That certainly helps get the attention of lawmakers and keep the bill moving.

One powerful and articulate person promoting SB 1 is Dr. Jerome Adams, executive director of Purdue Health Equity Initiative­s. More importantl­y, he is a former Indiana State Health Commission­er and served as the 20th U.S. Surgeon General.

Adams makes a compelling case that mental illness and suicide rates are rising across the nation, with Indiana no exception. In a recent commentary he released to media outlets, Adams cites a recent report from the Indiana Behavioral Health Commission that shows one in five Hoosiers suffer from mental illness each year.

“Shockingly since 2016, more than 1,000 Hoosiers have been lost to suicide every year,” Adams writes. “This heartbreak­ing crisis is impacting families across our great state, particular­ly our children. Beyond the significan­t human consequenc­e, mental illness is costing Indiana over $4 billion a year in lost productivi­ty, premature mortality, chronic disease, and other expenses.”

The report Adams cites is the source for SB 1’s proposals. He says similar provisions exist in a number of states already, with positive results. His recommenda­tion to lawmakers is simple. It’s time to take action, because a comprehens­ive crisis response system in Indiana is vital to improving the mental health and wellness of Hoosiers.

“State policymake­rs have an opportunit­y to take meaningful first steps to build this necessary infrastruc­ture with Senate Bill 1,” Adams writes. “For the health of our state now and for generation­s to come, I urge the Indiana General Assembly to give this key legislatio­n the utmost considerat­ion.”

Adams makes a compelling case. As the House takes up this important bill in coming weeks, we join him in supporting quick passage.

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