Rep. Mike Andrade: We can take commonsense steps to tackle our mental health crisis

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INDIANAPOLIS - State Rep. Mike Andrade (D-Munster) today issued the column below for publication in several area publications:

 

As COVID-19 impacts our communities and loved ones, the pandemic continues to reveal crises hiding in the shadows.

For far too long, Indiana has side-stepped the issue of mental healthcare. In turn, incidents of suicide and wait times for both inpatient and outpatient mental health services have only kept growing. 

According to the Indiana Center for Prevention of Youth Abuse and Suicide, teen suicide in our state has been higher than the national average since 1999 and suicide is now the second leading cause of death for Indiana teenagers.

No Hoosier family should have to wait months or even years for the health services they need. Fortunately, there are commonsense approaches the state legislature can take to help Hoosier families access and receive quality mental healthcare.

My bill, House Bill 1202, would allow Hoosiers better and more equitable access to counseling services by having Indiana join the Counseling Compact, set up by the National Center for Interstate Compacts.

This compact allows counselors who are licensed in member states to practice in other member states via telehealth without going through the red tape involved with getting a license specifically in Indiana. 

This means that college students and families moving into our state can continue to receive care from the counselor they trust without having to find and wait for an appointment with a new service provider. Active-duty military members frequently move states but face significant mental health challenges as a result of their service. To ensure they get the healing they need as they serve our country, we need to allow for flexibility and continuity of care.    

Additionally, this would be a step toward rural health equity. It can be difficult to access therapy in rural areas, but with compact licensing and telehealth, clients can find and remain with a trusted provider who knows them well, even if they live dozens of miles from the nearest mental health services.

The compact also provides a golden opportunity to lower wait times for all Hoosiers. By allowing more licensed, experienced counselors to practice via telehealth we can ensure that a larger number of Hoosiers can access and receive mental health services in a timely and more efficient manner.

Many Hoosier health organizations have sent letters of support for HB 1202, including Mental Health America of Indiana, the Indiana Counseling Association and the Indiana Hospital Association. 

Currently, the Counseling Compact has been adopted by two states, and legislation is pending to add five other states to the agreement, including our neighbor Ohio.

Both a red state, Georgia, and a blue state, Maryland, became the first to join the compact in 2021. This simple step to expand mental health services is not a partisan issue.

I urge all members of the General Assembly to support HB 1202. To read the legislation for yourself, click here (https://iga.in.gov/legislative/2022/bills/house/1202#document-7dd581a3). And if there is ever any way my office can be of assistance to you, please do not hesitate to call my desk at (317) 232-9987 or toll free at 1 (800) 382-9842.

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