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:
Senate Bill 82 - Mental Health Diagnoses

Senate Bill 82, authored by Senator Crider (R-Greenfield)

Mental Health America (MHA) adheres to the position that Hoosiers must have access to appropriate behavioral health services when needed and that state and local governments can play a critical role in making sure early intervention and treatment services are provided.

This requires maximizing the important work of mental health and addiction service providers who are trained and qualified to both treat and diagnose behavioral health disorders. As we have a workforce shortage that makes this most difficult, the shortage is acerbated in Indiana, as the diagnosis of mental health disorders is currently limited to Physicians and Psychologists.

In Indiana, 74 of the 92 counties are considered mental health professional shortage areas, and about 70% of counties have insufficient or no access to psychiatrists. Despite adequate training required by licensing agencies, independently providing a mental health diagnosis is currently prohibited for licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs), licensed mental health counselors (LMHCs), licensed clinical addiction counselors (LCACs), and licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFTs). The limited scope of practice prevents over 10,000 health care providers in Indiana from diagnosing patients with these disorders. Indiana is one of only two states where LCSW’s are not allowed to complete a mental health diagnosis independently.

The passage of SB 82 would allow the 5427 LCSWs, 2606 LMHCs, 1328 LCACs, and 1000 LMFTs to diagnoses mental health conditions. With 74 of the 92 counties considered mental health professional shortage areas and 70% of counties in Indiana currently having insufficient or no access to psychiatrists, this would increase the number of clinicians who could diagnose and provide treatment in a timely way. This bill is an immense step toward addressing the mental health crisis in Indiana.

ACTION NEEDED: Please urge your legislator to vote YES on SB 82 HERE!

Learn more about the bill and it's provisions below:

Senate Bill 82: MENTAL HEALTH DIAGNOSIS - Defines "mental health diagnosis" and sets forth requirements that must be met in order for certain licensed professionals to provide a mental health diagnosis. Requires certain mental health professionals who are making a mental health diagnosis and who determine that the patient has not been examined by a physician in the preceding 12 months to recommend to the patient that the patient schedule an examination by a physician at the earliest opportunity. Requires notation of that recommendation in the patient's medical record.
Senate Committee recommends passage, as amended Yeas: 12; Nays: 0
Senate Bills:
Senate Bill 51: 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. Adds physical therapy to the list of services a school psychologist may refer a student. Allows a school psychologist to make referrals to physical therapists for mandated school services.
Bill held in Senate Committee

House Bills:
House Bill 1007: STATE HEALTH IMPROVEMENT AND GRANT PROGRAM - Requires the state department of health (department), in consultation with the office of the secretary of family and social services, to study and prepare a plan (plan) to improve the health and behavioral health of Indiana residents. Requires the plan to be submitted to the general assembly. Requires that the department establish and maintain on the department's Internet web site a web page that indicates the performance and progress of the metrics and goals of the most significant areas identified in the plan.
House Committee recommends passage, as amended Yeas: 13; Nays: 0

House Bill 1434: CIGARETTE TAX AND E-LIQUIDS TAX - Imposes a tax on e-liquids that contain nicotine at a rate of $0.08 per milliliter of consumable product. Deposits the revenue from the tax in the state general fund. Increases the cigarette tax by $1 to $1.995 per pack of regular size cigarettes and makes a corresponding increase for larger cigarettes.
House Committee recommends passage, as amended Yeas: 8; Nays: 3
Bill Amended in House Health Committee and moves to House Ways and Means

What's Going On in Capitol Hill?
Congress is considering the next steps on a COVID Relief Package. This week, a group of ten Senate Republicans released a draft bill for a roughly $600B package. The President had proposed $1.9T. In a positive development for the mental health community, both the President’s plan and the Republican alternative include $4B for mental health and addiction services, divided between SAMHSA (3.5B) and HRSA (.5B). Neither plan has additional details, and MHA has supported the overall investment while pointing out the need to increase the workforce, especially peer support specialists, and our commitment to early intervention, equity, and a better crisis system. 
The President met with Republican Senators, and they are continuing conversations as the Democratic leaders continue to prepare for using a process called budget reconciliation, which only requires a majority to pass. While this process has the advantage of a lower threshold, there are a lot of restrictions on how the process can be used that make it difficult. We will keep you updated as discussions continue.
In addition to advocating for mental health resources, MHA also participates in coalitions to raise issues of interest to non-profits and co-signed this letter seeking additional COVID relief in the Paycheck Protection Program, Unemployment Insurance, Tax Incentives for charitable giving and other issues.
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!