There is no question that one of today’s major health concerns is the issue of mental health. As our society continues to understand how mental health conditions can affect individuals, families and communities, we also recognize the importance of addressing mental health issues as a matter of public safety.
Major societal issues like drug addiction and mass shooting attempts underscore the need for governments to act in order to increase access to mental health services so people can receive the treatment they need.
Like many states, Indiana does not have enough mental health and addiction treatment providers to meet the demand created by the opioid epidemic. House Enrolled Act 1007, passed this year, allows for nine additional opioid treatment centers to be opened in Indiana. By opening nine more centers, we hope to have addiction treatment within an hour’s drive of every Hoosier.
HEA 1007 also allows employers to opt into a program that allows them to hire a drug abuser, contingent upon the employee’s participation in a treatment program. This approach helps destigmatize addiction while creating opportunities for drug abusers to get the jobs and treatment they need in order to break the cycle of addiction. Previously, if an employer wanted to hire an individual who struggles with addiction and help them get treatment, there were liability and cost issues that deterred them from doing so.
The legislature also passed Senate Enrolled Act 224 this session, which brings our requirements for mental health counselors into alignment with industry standards. Previously, mental health counselors were required to complete far more training than what industry standards call for in order to practice in Indiana, and we hope that by changing these requirements, more qualified mental health counselors will practice in our state.
Finally, statistics show that incarcerated individuals are diagnosed with a serious mental illness three times as often as the general public. In addition, over half of those incarcerated in our state prison system have a substance use disorder, compared to the 8.8 percent of the general population. Statistics also show that of those who return to prison, 75 percent have a substance use disorder. House Enrolled Act 1006 expands access to a pilot program that provides addiction treatment and mental health services from only serving felons to include individuals charged with misdemeanors, with the intent of helping reduce repeat offenses in our criminal justice system.
Recent headlines in the news clearly demonstrate that mental health is a growing issue in our country, and the Indiana General Assembly will continue to look for ways to help improve our state’s mental health.
If you have any questions, comments or concerns regarding this or other topics, contact my office by phone at 800-382-9467 or by email at Senator.Long@iga.in.gov.
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