INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana lawmakers are moving forward with efforts to expand mental health services but are still working out the details on funding for the proposal.
The House Public Health committee unanimously passed Senate Bill 1 Tuesday. The proposal aims to improve the state’s response system for mental health crises.
Several Hoosiers emotionally asked lawmakers to move forward with the bill, including Garrett Blad, who spoke about his brother Austin.
“He was a caring member of my family,” Blad told lawmakers.
Garrett said his brother struggled with mental illness for years. He stopped taking his medications for health conditions like diabetes, and his family called for help last fall as his health declined, Garrett added.
Although he was hospitalized, his brother didn’t get the mental health care he needed, Blad said, and he died a month later at age 35.
“If we had had access to mobile teams, someone to actually come to the house to evaluate my brother and get him care, I feel like that would have been a lifeline,” said Blad, who serves as political director for Faith in Indiana.
Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch testified in support of the measure for the second time, sharing how mental health has impacted her family.
“Our daughter often has told us that she is alive today because of the support my husband and I gave her,” Crouch said. “What about the parents that can’t get that support?”
The bill has strong bipartisan backing – it passed the Senate unanimously in February. But now lawmakers have to work out how much funding they’ll provide.
“I’m concerned because we don’t currently have the money in the bill,” said State Sen. Michael Crider (R-Greenfield), the bill’s author.
Crider’s bill originally allocated $30 million to get the proposed services going. But that funding will now come from the state’s two-year budget, which Republican lawmakers are still drafting.
Senate leaders have said mental health funding will be included in the budget but haven’t given any indication of how much money they may approve.
Supporters say they won’t stop pushing.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Crider said. “I’m going to be here and continue to fight for this cause.”
“There’s so many people across our state that are either locked up in jail or are dying in emergency rooms or on our beds in our houses that we don’t have to lose,” Blad said.
The bill has been sent to the House Ways and Means committee for approval before it gets a vote on the House floor.