Local senator’s mental health bill progresses

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Michael Crider

HANCOCK COUNTY – A bill that looks to build a better mental health care system authored by a state senator from Greenfield is moving forward in the Indiana General Assembly.

Senate Bill 1, an Indiana Senate Republican Caucus priority this legislative session, would provide ongoing funding to build out a system of certified behavioral health clinics throughout the state.

The proposed legislation’s author, Sen. Michael Crider, R-Greenfield, described it as an outflow of the behavioral health commission he created in the 2020 legislative session that began to study the issue of untreated mental illness.

“It really looks to begin to align our delivery model a little bit differently than we’ve done in the past, and looks at the certified community behavioral health model, and that model allows us to use some newer techniques,” Crider said.

Some of those techniques have been discussed in Crider’s district in Hancock County, like mobile crisis response teams.

“As we piloted some of these projects across the state, they’re showing really good success at deflecting people from the emergency rooms and from county jails by taking care of their needs really on the scene of the call,” he said.

Ultimately the bill would result in the Division of Mental Health and Addiction under the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration to apply for grants through the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to start changing the way some mental health services are paid for through Medicaid and other state funds, Crider said.

“So some of the more innovative tactics will be actually reimbursable,” he said. “Really the goal is initially to get enough funding that we can see expansion in the certified community behavioral health platform, and as we move forward, ultimately there will be kind of a shift in how we pay for some of those services.”

Crider noted there are some federal dollars flowing through the state from the new national 9-8-8 National Suicide and Crisis Line.

“But ultimately we’re looking for a steady state funding stream also where essentially you can take a state dollar and match Medicaid and it becomes three dollars in order to use that to provide services,” he said.

Under the model Crider is pursuing, every community in Indiana would do a community needs assessment and determine what their initial efforts would be around.

“Some counties don’t have drug courts and they don’t handle veterans and drug-addicted individuals as well as they might like to,” he said. “This is such a complicated discussion and it’s going to take a lot of us really working together to figure out what the best steps are moving forward.”

According to data collected by the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health, approximately 22% of Hoosiers experience mental illness each year, and half of Hoosiers with serious mental illness go untreated. Combining the direct health care costs, the non-health care services and the indirect costs, the total economic burden of untreated mental health in Indiana is around $4.2 billion.

“The need is so great that it’s one of those situations where you just kind of have to take a strategic approach and say, ‘What’s the first initial step that we should take in this move toward the certified community behavioral health clinic model?’” Crider said.

SB 1 will now be considered by the full Senate. Crider is hopeful for its approval there and in the Indiana House of Representatives.

“We will have a fairly robust discussion at the end of the budgeting process as to how much money will be allocated for this purpose,” he said. “It’s one of those situations where kind of all the options are on the table and we’ll decide how much money we get and we’ll decide how far that money will take us when we combine that with any of the federal dollars that are available.”