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Major move in mental health reform

My Opinion
Mark Hurt, Guest Writer

We should thank the Indiana legislature and Gov. Mike Pence for foresight in appropriating $60 million over the next two years for treatment and rehabilitation programs for individuals with mental illness and severe abuse addictions. The funds provide targeted resources and treatment that will reduce criminal activity and incarcerations of individuals with co-occurring or mental health disorders.
The goal is treatment, known as forensic diversion, which will reduce the need for hospitalization and optimize personal recovery through trauma-based care, outreach and intensive case management. Higher risk offenders with more needs get more resources with a specific treatment focus. Using evidence-based practices, risk and need assessments are conducted through individualized approaches and intensive targeting for behavioral change.
Mental illness is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate based on economic status or level of education. You will be surprised to learn how much of your local sheriff’s budget goes to psychotropic medications. That will soon increase, as Indiana will release nearly 18,000 individuals from the Dept. of Corrections and nearly 6,500 Level 5 and 6 felons will now be jailed in local county jails.
The new law, House Enrolled Act 1006, will work to reduce recidivism through educational and vocational programs, substance-abuse treatment and cognitive-behavioral therapies. The Indiana Division of Mental Health and Addictions notes that 15 percent of men and 31 percent of women in local jails have serious mental illness. Most of these individuals with mental illness are not violent. National research also shows that 53 percent of prisoners at the Dept. of Corrections, 45 percent of federal prisoners and 68 percent of local jail inmates have alcohol and drug additions. This number is 8.8 percent for the general population.
For medical providers, $10 million is appropriated this year with $20 million next year for forensic treatment, to supplement what Medicaid and insurance does not pay for mental health treatment for criminal defendants.
The new law provides new funding for psychiatrists and other mental health providers to treat criminal defendants with mental health needs. Expanded services include forensic treatment, medication management through home visits with probation officers, transitional housing assistance, supportive employment initiatives, case management, detox, community recovery support programs and new crisis intervention training for law enforcement. These enhanced mental health services will reduce crime.
The new law trains community corrections officers and probation officers on how to teach offenders to apply for HIP 2.0., so criminal defendants won’t lose Medicaid eligibility when leaving the jail. Funding will also support services for those in the criminal justice system without insurance coverage.
HEA 1006 will assist with a shortage of inpatient beds for criminal defendants with mental illness through the building of a new Central Indiana Hospital that will provide psychiatric services tied to criminal behavioral treatment.
The new law has probation officers, state hospitals, Dept. of Corrections, jails, re-entry courts, prosecutors and judges working together in ways these individuals have not worked together before. For that, Gov. Mike Pence and the Indiana legislature are to be commended for their significant investment in our criminal justice system and the needs of the mentally ill in Indiana.
Mark Hurt is an attorney who served as health care adviser to Sen. Dan Coats, R-Indiana, Michigan Gov. John Engler and Rep. Fred Grandy, R-Iowa. Hurt, who has law offices in Kokomo and Noblesville, can be reached online at