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Report recommends changes to Indiana’s mental health care system

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Photo courtesy of the state of Indiana
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Jay Chaudhary, director of the Indiana Division of Mental Health ad Addiction and chair of the Indiana Behavioral Health Commission.

The Indiana Behavioral Health Commission has released findings of a two-year study that shows the state’s mental health care systems are in need of increased funding, programs and staff. 

The 24-member commission began in 2020, with the goal of informing legislation to improve mental health services. It’s part of the state’s Family and Social Services Administration. 

“This report builds on the important, ongoing work already underway by stakeholders in partnership with the state of Indiana,” Jay Chaudhary, commission chair and director of Indiana’s Division of Mental Health and Addiction, said in a news release. “We know that these collaborations must continue in order to improve access to mental health care for Hoosiers, and how that care is delivered.”

According to the study, 1 in 5 people in Indiana experiences mental illness, with around 20% going untreated. That’s led to an annual estimated cost of $4.2 billion in untreated mental illness. 

Those numbers are reportedly higher in some populations: Around 40% of incarcerated people and more than half of unhoused people in Indiana have experienced mental illness.

The commission recommends a 60% increase in funding over the next four years to help build out sustainable infrastructure for mental health care. That includes transitioning to a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic model, designed to provide care for mental illness or substance use disorders regardless of a patient’s ability to pay. 

They also propose a $1 surcharge on all phone bills to help fund a Comprehensive Crisis Response System to support the new national 988 suicide and crisis line in Indiana. 

To improve mental health care in the criminal justice system, the commission recommends increasing the number of mental health courts. The report also suggests creating a Medicaid waiver that would provide partial federal reimbursement for mental health care in criminal justice settings. 

To address workforce issues, the commission recommends reducing barriers such as certain licensing requirements, offering tuition and student loan reimbursement for those in behavioral health, and studying Medicaid reimbursement rates. 

Indiana state Sen. Michael Crider, who authored the legislation creating the commission and also serves on it, said he’s excited to take the findings to the general assembly. 

“I urge my fellow legislators to examine how we can continue to support the progress underway in delivering behavioral health services,” he said in the release.

Aprile Rickert is LPM's Southern Indiana reporter. Email Aprile at arickert@lpm.org.