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Indiana faith leaders take mental health funding fight to Statehouse

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Faith leaders across Indiana are urging lawmakers to fully fund a comprehensive mental health crisis response system.

Leaders of various faith organizations will meet with legislative leaders at the Statehouse on Tuesday before holding a press conference to discuss their open letter to legislators.

The Black Church Coalition and Faith in Indiana are leading the charge, calling for support of Senate Bill 1 — authored by Republican State Senators Michael Crider, Ed Charbonneau, and Ron Alting — and advocating for full funding for a comprehensive mental health crisis response system.

The bill would address mental health issues in several ways, including creating a crisis response center for the 988 phone number, providing mobile crisis response counselors, and requiring Medicaid reimbursement for behavioral health.

Members of the clergy are urging lawmakers to fund the bill entirely.

Dr. Carlos Perkins, a member of the Black Church Coalition, emphasized to News 8 the importance of funding the mental health crisis response system. “It’s one thing to pass the bill passed in the Senate. But, this bill needs to be funded.”

Tuesday’s press conference was to be held at 3 p.m. on the fourth floor of the Statehouse’s south wing. It follows last month’s kickoff rally at New Direction Church, where over 800 community leaders gathered to demand full funding for mental health crisis response.

“Our call, our prophetic stance as ordained clergy in the black church coalition, is to call upon our elected officials to ensure that this bill is given the appropriate funding so that residents across the state of Indiana could be assured that if they have a family member that’s in crisis that they will get the support that they need,” Perkins said.

Perkins also shared personal experiences of receiving phone calls from his church and community members who have loved ones facing mental health challenges.

“‘I have a son. I have a daughter in a mental health crisis, and I’m afraid to call 911 because I don’t want them to die.’ That should not be the only option that residents across the state of Indiana have,” Perkins said.

Senate Bill 1 passed the Senate on Feb. 13 and moved on to the House, where it was referred to the Committee on Public Health. If approved by lawmakers in the House, it will move on to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s desk for his signature.