INDIANAPOLIS – A state commission says Indiana needs significantly more funding to address Hoosiers’ mental health.

The Indiana Behavioral Health Commission was formed in 2020 to find ways to improve mental health services in Indiana.

As the commission began its work, the pandemic took hold, which further increased the demand for treatment and counseling.

“There’s a lot of underlying traumas out there, and COVID-19 has definitely exacerbated that,” said Kevin Rudd, interim CEO for Recovery Centers of America at Indianapolis.

Rudd pointed out mental health more often requires long-term care than quick fixes.

Zoe Frantz, who runs the Indiana Council of Community Mental Health Centers, said Indiana is doing its best to meet the need, but the system needs significant changes.

“Right now, it’s very fragmented and very siloed,” she said.

Frantz is a member of the Indiana Behavioral Health Commission, which just released its final report after two years of work. Among the recommendations, the commission says Indiana needs to increase its funding for mental health services by 60% over the next four years.

“We are over a 20% vacancy rate within our mental health workforce amongst our community mental health centers,” Frantz said. “So changing this payer infrastructure will help in allowing workforce to stay.”

“I think we all intuitively knew that the need was pretty great across the state,” said State Sen. Michael Crider (R-Greenfield), who led efforts to create the commission in 2020.

Next session, Crider plans to introduce a bill focused on the commission’s recommendations, including increased funding for mental health.

“I’m really looking for the opportunity to create a system that does not kind of continually need tweaking and additional funds put into the system,” Crider said.

The commission is also calling for a $1 surcharge on phone bills to help fund the 988 mental health crisis hotline and response system, which went live nationwide over the summer.

A bill has not been drafted yet. Lawmakers would start considering any proposals in January.