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Indiana legislature improves access to mental health care with new law, organizations provide resources

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – The Indiana legislature is taking action to improve access to mental health care as barriers need to be knocked down, especially for people on Medicare and Medicaid.

The 988 law has recently been passed to improve how the state responds to a mental health crisis.

The National Suicide Hotline will change from 1-800-273-8255 to 988 and mental health crisis calls will be diverted from 911 to 988 next summer.

“It allows us to reform the way that we do crisis response in a coordinated, efficient, trauma-informed care way,” said Vice President of Harms Reduction and Crisis Stabilization Programs of Mental Health America of Indiana David Berman.

It’s a simpler way to dial for help. District 28 Senator Michael Crider is just one legislature to make it a reality.

“The goal is to make this as streamline as possible when somebody calls 988. They’ll get access to trained professionals that will know how to either work with them directly or refer them to somebody who will,” said Berman.

The Mental Health America Wabash Valley Region has a system called “The Navigator.” It consists of peers who advocate for people waiting to receive mental healthcare.

“Our software will generate a list and then we will go through that list and we will call every single person,” said Mental Health America President and Chief Executive Officer Brandi Christiansen. “We will take waiting lists and we will put ourselves on a no-call, no-show list and we will continue to contact and continue to inform the client until we’ve secured an appointment.”

Behavioral health experts are fighting for the increase of reimbursements to healthcare providers.

Chief Strategy Officer at Valley Oaks Health Zoe Frantz said reimbursement rates for Medicaid in some services haven’t gone up since the 1970s and more specialties should be able to bill for service to Medicare and Medicaid, like marriage and family counselors.

“We don’t have a lot of clinicians, whether it be psychologists, whether it be any discipline within our state because reimbursement rates are low that we can’t pay people to do that job,” added Frantz.

President and CEO of Aspire Health Network and ICCMHC board member Barbara Scott said it’s going to take the community to break the stigma in wanting to receive mental health treatment in order for policies to change. Telehealth is beginning to help with that.

“You’re not driving up to a mental health center so you can get services in the privacy of your home or in a secured place somewhere,” Scott added.

Frantz said society needs to understand mental health is just as important as physical health. “Until people realize that mental health is a treatable disease. Non-of this will change,” Frantz said.

Here are additional resources to receive access to mental health and other services in Indiana:

This is the fifth story in a series we’re calling “INside Story.” The rest of Aleah’s stories looking into access to mental health care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those stories will air each morning this week on News 8.