INDIANAPOLIS – Mental health advocates say the $100 million in the new two-year state budget for enhanced services is “a step in the right direction” but are calling on lawmakers to approve more sustainable sources of funding in the future.
The goal behind Senate Enrolled Act 1 is to get people the treatment they need much more quickly. It directs the state funding to be used to improve the state’s response to mental health emergencies and expand the network of clinics offering services.
“Right now workforce is scarce across our state,” said Zoe Frantz of the Indiana Council of Community Mental Health Centers.
The new state law directs dollars toward state’s network of certified community behavioral health centers, which provide a range of mental health services. The new funds will allow clinics across the state to hire more staff and expand programs provided, Frantz said.
“They do care coordination and coordinating care from school to jails, hospitals,” she said.
The mental health funding approved this session is a positive step forward, Frantz said, but won’t be enough to meet the need in all of Indiana’s 92 counties.
Last year, the Indiana Behavioral Health Commission recommended about $130 million a year in state funding. The new budget allocates $50 million annually.
“I’m really most concerned about trying to build a platform of sustainable funding,” said State Sen. Michael Crider (R-Greenfield), who led efforts to get the mental health legislation passed.
Crider said he wants to see lawmakers eventually approve fees to collect more funding. That may come in the form of a $1 phone bill surcharge or cigarette tax increase – two options that were discussed this year but not passed.
“The cell phone fee makes a lot of sense because that’s one of the methods that the federal government gave us with the 988 legislation,” he said.
That kind of additional funding will be needed for services to continue to expand beyond the next two years, Frantz said.
“It will not be enough to give the full state that full infrastructure build of crisis response and certified community behavioral health clinics, but that’s why we’re going to come back and advocate for that surcharge,” she said.
The new budget takes effect July 1.
Lawmakers separately set aside $10 million to expand mental health services for criminal offenders.