Indiana to provide more mental health services for jailed individuals

Local officials have told lawmakers county jails are not adequately equipped to support people “suffering from a mental health crisis.”

Published: June 1, 2023 11:00pm

(The Center Square) -

A new law that will take effect next month is expected to help Indiana police officers handle cases where a suspect in a criminal case may be suffering from a mental health crisis.

According to a statement by state Sen. Mark Messmer, R-Jasper, House Bill 1006 gives law enforcement more options in such cases. That includes allowing officers to take someone to a mental health facility.

It’s an issue local officials have wanted the General Assembly to address for several years, the senator added. They have told lawmakers county jails are not adequately equipped to support people “suffering from a mental health crisis.”

Under the law, a suspect arrested for a crime but taken to a mental health facility may still be charged in the incident, but those individuals will receive the services they need before their case continues in the courts.

“This process looks to address the root issue of crime and get help to those who need it most, hopefully setting them up for a more promising future,” Messmer said.

Bolstering the state’s mental health network was a priority for lawmakers in this year’s General Assembly session.

Senate Bill 1, one of the cornerstone bills passed in the session that ended a little more than a month ago, seeks to add more certified clinics for mental health across the state. The two-year budget supports that by providing $50 million annually for local mental health services and another $10 million for grants to regional facilities that will provide those services for incarcerated people.

The aid for those in prison and jails comes a year after the Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services Commission filed a federal lawsuit against the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration after the FSSA’s Division of Mental Health failed to remove at least 17 individuals from the Marion County Jail who had been identified as unable to stand trial due a lack of mental capacity.

“The Division has failed to remove the persons from the jail or otherwise provide restoration services,” the lawsuit stated. “Some of these prisoners have been held in the jail since prior to Jan. 1, 2022. This experience is replicated in other jails in Indiana.”

The two sides in the case are discussing a settlement, and last Thursday, U.S. District Judge Tim A. Baker ordered them to provide a status update on those talks by July 11.

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