INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana lawmakers are sharing new details about their plans for mental health legislation this session.
A bipartisan group of Indiana lawmakers discussed their ideas at Mental Health America of Indiana’s symposium Friday. They say they believe the timing is right and the support from their colleagues is there to pass mental health legislation.
“The tides have turned, and I feel like my colleagues now know that they are only one degree separated from a loved one that’s been walking this journey,” said State Rep. Ann Vermilion (R-Marion).
State Sen. Michael Crider (R-Greenfield) is backing a bill that would create a $1 surcharge on cell phone bills. That would generate around $100 million per year to fund the new 988 mental health crisis lifeline and response services, he explained.
I don’t want to be part of creating a system that two years or four years down the road, the money dries up and then we’re right back, everybody will slide right back into doing what we’re doing,” Crider said.
Another bill would divert Hoosiers facing jail time into mental health treatment centers if they’re deemed in need of treatment. State Rep. Greg Steuerwald (R-Avon) is behind that measure.
“Once you get into the criminal justice system, it’s kind of hard to get out,” Steuerwald said. “So we’re trying to enhance the ability for them never to go into jail.”
According to Steuerwald, his bill would also allow judges to move those already in jail into a mental health facility if they need treatment.
State Sen. J.D. Ford (D-Indianapolis) said he and his fellow Democrats are on board with pushing for new mental health legislation.
“We do play that pivotal role in helping to secure some of those votes with important issues like this,” Ford said.
Zoe Frantz, who runs the Indiana Council of Community Mental Health Centers, said she hopes lawmakers approve long-term solutions.
“We need to put the sustainability in place long term so those with mental health and substance abuse have access to good, high-quality care,” Frantz said.
Bills will be filed closer to the start of the session on Jan. 9.