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Report: Indiana’s mental healthcare system 'underfunded' and 'systemic reform' recommended

In 2019, Indiana ranked 42nd for overall mental health in the U.S.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Indiana Behavioral Health Commission has released its findings, following two years of research, in a report detailing the state’s mental healthcare system, recommending “systemic reform” take place.

The Indiana Behavioral Health Commission was established in the 2020 legislative session, with a final report due to the Indiana General Assembly by October 2022. 

Lawmakers created the commission to examine the functioning of Indiana’s Behavioral Health System. Now, its recommending lawmakers make “significant changes to substantially improve the performance” of the system.

The report found that one in five Indiana residents live day-to-day with an untreated mental illness. It goes on to state that figure, around 20% of the Indiana population, costs the state  $4.2 billion annually.

That figure came from a separate state report, which found the the largest cost attributable to untreated illness was premature mortality, at over $1.4 billion. It found productivity losses cost Indiana an estimated $885 million each year, and direct healthcare costs $708 million.

In 2019, Indiana ranked 42nd for overall mental health in the U.S.

Beth Keeney, president of Lifespring Health Systems, said three years later and coming out of a pandemic, she’s seen the issue get worse.

“We have seen a tremendous change. Covid has a lot of consequences,” she said. “We are seeing people who have never engaged in behavioral healthcare before. We are seeing people coming in at a higher acuity than we've ever seen before.”

Lifespring provides mental health and primary care services in 11 southern Indiana counties.  Services include education, prevention, information, assessment, intervention, and treatment. 

Keeney said the uptick in patients has also come at a time when not her business, but mental healthcare systems across Indiana are short staffed.

“Hiring anyone from the person that answers the phone and greets you when you walk in the door to being able to hire licensed clinical staff  is very challenging right now.,” Keeney said.

It’s an issue she believes implementing some of the commission’s recommendations could fix.

Indiana’s Behavior Health Commission is composed of a diverse group of leaders: state lawmakers, CEOs, doctors of psychiatry and psychology, college professors, social service professionals, and local officials. 

“This is a roadmap for behavioral health for the future,” Brandon George, the director of the Indiana Addictions Issues Coalition, said.

The commission’s recommendations focus on two key, foundational initiatives to build a “sustainable infrastructure”:  build a comprehensive crisis response system and  transition to a federally supported Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) model. 

The first of two recommendations suggest by adopting a surcharge on phone bills, the General Assembly can provide “long-term sustainability for the three-part system”:

  1. Someone to Contact: 988 Call Centers
  2. Someone to Respond: Mobile Crisis Teams
  3. A Safe Place for Help: Crisis Stabilization Units

The second of the two, CCBHCs, the commission said are a  “proven model for increasing access, quality, and integration of care.”

The commission detailed in its findings that a 60% increase in funding over the next four years would be necessary to help build out sustainable infrastructure for mental health care.

In the report, the commission acknowledges the issue of cost: “The Commission acknowledges that some of the recommendations carry a significant price tag. Care has been taken to propose strategies that mitigate the long-term impact on the state budget while improving access to quality care for all Hoosiers.”

Contact reporter Connor Steffen at csteffen@whas11.com or on FacebookTwitter or Instagram.  

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