Efforts would help in care of mentally ill

Recently, I presented my bill on Psychiatric Crisis Intervention to the Senate Appropriations Committee. The bill had already passed out of Children and Family Services, but since the bill asks for an appropriation exceeding $150,000, it had to be heard again.

The money requested would fund a series of pilot projects to study the services and gaps in services available to effectively deal with our citizens who find themselves in crisis and needing care.

As security director at the hospital, I often observe people trying to navigate the current system, and I find myself frustrated. I can’t imagine how maddening it is for the families of these people who are looking for help.

This effort follows the bill I passed into law last year which caused the Office of Family Services to conduct a study related to this problem. The workgroup has done some great work already, and this is one of the first actionable items identified.

This year’s bill will push out the report required until 2016 so that we can include findings from the pilot projects into a comprehensive report.

At the same time this session, I am working on a bill with Senator Mark Stoops, who is a Bloomington Democrat, to push SB 380. This bill provides law enforcement with additional training about dealing with mental health challenges.

This bill advocates the use of crisis intervention teams made up of local law enforcement officers who receive training regarding local service providers and who can triage those they interact with to appropriate services and care.

I am also working on a bill to place more emphasis on problem-solving courts that allow judges to effectively deal with those with mental or addictions issues.

These courts have a great capacity to require participation in treatment programs as an alternative to incarceration. This can be the most effective way of dealing with these challenges, and I am hopeful that we can make some progress in this area as well.

My friend, Judge Rick Culver, was a pioneer in using this concept to focus services on those incarcerated with addiction issues. The Jail Intervention Program has been highly successful, and I believe that model provides both cost-savings and improved outcomes for participants.

All of these things cost money, and I realize that I am in competition with other worthwhile projects with my bill. I talked quite a bit about government efficiency during my campaign for office, and this is an example where we as policymakers can narrow the focus of spending in an area and at the same time improve the outcomes for the citizens served by our government programs. I particularly enjoy working on projects like this.

The social costs of addiction and suicide are tremendous. I hope in some way that the efforts I make in this area can improve the lives of people who are impacted with these challenges. It is an honor to serve you, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

State Sen. Mike Crider, R-Greenfield, represents Hancock County in the Indiana General Assembly.