Dear Advocates,

We invite you to follow along as we navigate this year's new and exciting legislative session. If you are interested in learning more about our policy agenda, please be sure to review our Public Policy Statements HERE.

Mental Health America of Indiana advocates for effective legislation that will improve the behavioral health sector in Indiana. Below are KEY behavioral health bills heard in committee this week.

Spotlight Bill:
The COVID-19 pandemic is driving an enormous need for virtual behavioral health services throughout the state of Indiana and the nation. Teletherapy services have seen a record uptake in individuals served since March, and we expect to see those numbers grow in the future, especially in rural parts of Indiana where the workforce shortage in the behavioral health field is more severe.

As a result of the pandemic, the state and federal government have approved reimbursement for an expansion of Telehealth services that will otherwise terminate upon the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

To learn more about telehealth expansion in Indiana, click here.

As a result, state legislation is needed to make many of these provisions permanent. Mental Health America of Indiana strongly supports Senate Bill 3 and the permanent expansion of telehealth services for the behavioral health field. Learn more about the bill and it's provisions below:

Prohibits the Medicaid program from specifying originating sites and distant sites for purposes of Medicaid reimbursement and voids administrative rules with these requirements. Changes the use of the term "telemedicine" to "telehealth". Specifies certain activities that are considered to be health care services for purposes of the telehealth laws. Expands the application of the telehealth statute to additional licensed practitioners instead of applying only to prescribers.
Senate Bills:
Requires a public school that issues a student identification card to a student in grade 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, or 12 to include on the student identification card a local, state, or national: (1)suicide prevention hotline telephone number; and (2) human trafficking hotline telephone number; that provides support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Provides that the information may be printed on the student identification card or printed on a sticker that is affixed to the student identification card. Senate Committee recommends passage Yeas: 7; Nays: 2

Provides, with certain exceptions, that written or oral communications concerning the provision of peer support services and critical incident stress management services (CISM services) to a first responder are confidential and may not be disclosed without the first responder's consent. Senate Committee recommends passage Yeas: 8; Nays: 0

Amends the definition of "maternal mortality" to include deaths of pregnant women from any cause. Specifies that a health care provider includes a mental health professional for purposes of the review of records by the statewide maternal mortality review committee. Senate Committee recommends passage Yeas: 8; Nays: 0;

Permits, under certain circumstances, an offender committed to the department of correction to be held within a treatment facility operated by the department for not more than 14 days beyond the offender's mandatory release date if: (1) the offender consents; or (2) a court has ordered the offender to be committed to a treatment setting outside the department. Senate Committee recommends passage, as amended Yeas: 8; Nays: 0

House Bills:
Requires the Indiana law enforcement training board to establish mandatory training in de-escalation as part of the use-of-force curriculum, and requires de-escalation training to be provided as a part of: (1) pre-basic training; (2) mandatory inservice training; and (3) the executive training program. House Committee recommends passage, as amended Yeas: 11; Nays: 0
What's Going On in Capitol Hill?
COVID-19 Relief Bill Funding for Mental Health and Substance Use

We are very excited that Congress passed COVID-19 relief and allocated $4.25B to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), including substantial increases to the mental health block grant. MHA CEO Paul Gionfriddo urged the mental health community to fight for billions, recognizing the growing need that we were seeing in our screening data. While this is not sufficient, we are thrilled to see a significant step in the right direction. The legislative package also included many other important provisions, including key parity provisions for ensuring greater fairness in insurance practices and increased access to telehealth for mental healthcare in Medicare. That said, there is more work to be done in both areas.
More than ever, we must stay in touch with you through technology, so please be sure to sign up for our IN.session Newsletter and VoterVoice Action Alerts to stay up to date on important mental health related legislation.

If you would like to review all of the bills Mental Health America of Indiana is following, click HERE for our Action Track report!