Dear Advocates,

We don’t have a problem with vaping…we have a developing epidemic.

As of October 2019 Indiana has 41 confirmed cases of lung injury, 56 cases under investigation, and at least 4 deaths directly attributable to vaping (CDC). The largest number of lung injury cases are found in the 18-29 year old demographic, which are largely college aged students. We surveyed more than 7,000 college students in Indiana and the 2019 results show that 26% of college students reported vaping (this is higher than the national average of 21%). We asked about what substances these students vape: 72% vaped nicotine, 52% flavors only, and 47% reported vaping THC.

There is an argument about both tobacco and alcohol that if 18 year olds can sign contracts, have credit cards, join the military, and vote -- then why should not they have a drink or smoke. The answer is neuroscience. Our brains are not finished developing until around 25 and substances used during that time may have negative and often irreversible consequences. Nicotine interferes with processes that are critical to memory, learning, focus, impulse control and brain development. Because nicotine tricks the brain’s reward centers into creating a pleasure response when someone smokes or vapes, continued smoking and vaping can lead to addiction.

Tobacco use by young people, particularly those with mental illnesses is a major public health concern (Journal of Behavioral Health), and some research suggests that smoking prevalence follows patterns similar to adults with mental illness, with findings ranging from 20-60% of youth with mental illness reporting tobacco use. Adolescents with depression, for instance, smoke at rates 3 times higher than adolescents without mental illness (National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2018).

The 2015 Institute of Medicine report on smoking indicates that by raising the smoking age to 21 smoking initiation would be reduced by 25% among 15-17 year olds and 15% among 18- 20 year olds. These reductions would result in an estimated 250,000 fewer premature deaths among those born between 2000-2019. Raising the age to 21 is the next logical step in tobacco and vaping control and will help protect the health and mental health of one of our most vulnerable populations, our youth.

Please contact your legislator here to support Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 1006.

Stephen C. McCaffrey, JD
President and CEO of Mental Health America of Indiana
Senate Bill 246 Requires a school corporation, charter school, or accredited nonpublic school to certify to the department of homeland security that a school corporation, charter school, or accredited nonpublic school has a memorandum of understanding in place with a community mental health center or provider certified or licensed by the state to provide mental and behavioral health services to students before applying for a grant from the Indiana secured school fund. Provides that the community mental health center or provider may be employed by the school corporation, charter school, or accredited nonpublic school. Requires a school corporation and a charter school to enter into a memorandum of understanding with a community mental health center or provider certified or licensed by the state to provide mental and behavioral health services to students. Requires the division of mental health and addiction to develop a memorandum of understanding for referral and assist school corporations and charter schools in obtaining a memorandum of understanding with a community mental health center or an appropriate provider.

Want to take action on mental health in schools? Visit our action center with VoterVoice here .
Senate Bill 142 allows medicaid reimbursement for schools. Allows the office of the secretary of family and social services to apply for a Medicaid state plan amendment to allow school corporations to seek Medicaid reimbursement for medically necessary, school-based Medicaid covered services that are provided under federal or state mandates. Specifies possible services for Medicaid reimbursement. Please contact your legislator here to support this bill.
Senate Bill 192 requires inpatient mental health care for Medicaid children. Requires a managed care organization to allow a child Medicaid recipient who has been certified for admission to a psychiatric hospital to be provided certain services that are determined by a treating physician to be necessary for the child for up to five business days before the managed care organization may require a continued review process. Please contact your legislator here to support this bill.
House Bill 1346 addresses j ail overcrowding. Requires the management performance hub to establish and maintain a program, data base, or comparable data collection system that will allow sheriffs to collect, analyze, and exchange information concerning jail occupancy and issues related to jail occupancy. Repeals all provisions concerning the county jail overcrowding task force. Establishes the county jail overcrowding workgroup to study, among other things, the issue of how to reduce recidivism by offering programs that address mental health, drug, and alcohol treatment services and other evidence based programs. Please contact your legislator here to support this bill.
Senate Bill 273 establishes the Indiana behavioral health commission. Specifies the membership of the commission. Requires the commission to prepare: (1) an interim report not later than October 1, 2020; and (2) a final report not later than October 1, 2022. Specifies the issues and topics to be discussed in the commission reports, including: to conduct an assessment of behavioral health in Indiana; to evaluate barriers to mental health and substance use disorder treatment in Indiana; to evaluate other state and national mental health programs; as well as to review and make recommendations regarding funding levels for mental health programs and services. Requires commission reports to be issued to the following parties: (1) The governor. (2) The legislative council. (3) Any other party specified by the commission chairperson. Please contact your legislator here to support this bill.
Among many new changes to our policy agenda, the following are a few highlighted areas of focus:

  • MHAI will support efforts to increase the price of tobacco and e-liquid products through taxes or other means such as raising the age of use of tobacco and e-liquids products to 21 in an effort to decrease utilization of all tobacco products.

  • By providing the opportunity for schools to offer behavioral health programing with funding to increase capacity, schools can develop and maintain partnerships with community mental health service providers and create a safety net for those students and their families who may otherwise not receive the services they need. Most importantly, services in schools provide the opportunity for early intervention and prevention.  

Click the link below to see Mental Health America of Indiana's full public policy agenda.
Join Mental Health America of Indiana for our next upcoming events!

Who will be elected the next Hoosier Idol? Join us on February 26, 2020 at the Indiana Roof Ballroom from 6 - 9 P.M. for our annual talent show starring members of the Indiana General Assembly. This event sells out fast so purchase your tickets today!

Want to learn about today's accredited research and programming in mental health and substance use? Join our annual Mental Health Symposium on May 28, 2020 at Union Station!

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Please contact our event coordinator, Rebekah Gorrell.
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