Legislative Update: Support for Mental Health Legislation

We wish to express our appreciation to Senator Crider and Representative Steuerwald for their leadership in authoring and championing SB 1 and HB 1006 in the 2023 Indiana General Assembly legislative session. We urge the General Assembly to advance these pieces of legislation, which represent a comprehensive approach to enhancing the State of Indiana’s support for Hoosiers’ mental health.

As we begin the second half of the legislative session, we wish to reemphasize our support for proposals that unite Hoosiers to address our collective challenges and move the state forward. Senator Crider’s and Representative Steuerwald’s work to develop and build strong, bipartisan support for holistic strategies to address the growing mental health crisis is of critical importance.

And, as you well know, it is a crisis. Kaiser Family Foundation reports that Indiana’s rates of death from suicide, opioid overdose, and substance misuse disorder are all higher than the national averages, while it is estimated that between 60-68% of adult Hoosiers suffering from mental illness do not receive treatment.

The cost to Hoosier families is immeasurable. The cost to our state’s economy, however, has been assessed by the Indiana Behavioral Health Commission to be $4.2 billion each year. That staggering figure includes $885 million in annual productivity losses and $556 million worth of caregiving provided by family members­, often at the expense of their employment. And, as has been noted before, the challenge of accessing mental and behavioral health care, especially during crisis, is much greater for Black Hoosiers and other people of color.

These costs—both human and economic—are critically important to the state’s business community. Employers are deeply concerned about employees’ mental health, especially following the years of the pandemic, and are experiencing more challenges than ever in attracting and retaining a healthy, reliable workforce. SB 1 and HB 1006 represent crucial opportunities to invest in a comprehensive approach to Hoosiers’ mental health, now and into the future.

SB 1 seeks to build a sustainable infrastructure for supporting Hoosiers experiencing a mental health or substance abuse crises. If enacted—and properly funded—the system would address the Indiana Behavioral Health Commission’s 2022 report calling for every Hoosier experiencing such a crisis to have someone to call, trained personnel to respond, and a place to go for treatment.

This system will take time to build. HB 1006 would enable communities to take immediate action to support enhanced mental health crisis response and eases the burdens on law enforcement and county jails by creating local referral programs to provide treatment to arrestees. This proposal would begin ameliorating the mental health crisis in our communities as soon as it is enacted.

Multiple potential funding mechanisms for these bills have been discussed. We would support an increase to the cigarette tax or a direct appropriation to fund these two landmark pieces of legislation, but to put it very simply, Indiana must meet this moment.

Thanks to the leadership of Senator Crider and Representative Steuerwald, our state is positioned to do to do just that. Generations of Hoosiers will owe them a debt of gratitude.

As SB 1 and HB 1006 cross over to the opposite chamber, we are urging legislators to support the proposals and to help fully fund their implementation. We look forward to working with the General Assembly to move this legislation forward for the health of our Hoosier communities.

 

An Opportunity to Act

We invite you to join the call for action. Be sure to tag @IndyChamber@staylorhughes, and @Adam_Burtner on Twitter to show your support for mental health legislation. Interested in supporting the #IndyChamberAdvocacy priorities? Click here to access a digital toolkit to help spread the word.

 

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