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Faith leaders call for General Assembly to fully fund mental health services

mental health

Photo caption: REV. DENA HOLLAND-NEAL, with the Peace United Church of Christ in Merrillville, urge lawmakers to fund mental health services. (Whitney Downard/Indiana Capital Chronicle)

By Whitney Downard

In 2008, Marcella DeLavallade-Amos’ son was diagnosed with schizophrenia and DeLaVallade-Amos needed help managing his mental health.

“I was told that the protocol is to call 211 for police to come in for a mental health wellness check. In 2012, I did just that,” DeLavallade-Amos said at a Tuesday press conference. “They shot my son in his heart, his lungs, his shoulder… my son did not survive. I don’t want my story to become someone else’s story.”

DeLavallade-Amos was one of several gathered by Faith in Indiana to share their stories and urge the General Assembly to fully fund the mental health services outlined in Senate Bill 1. Though the bill has 19 Senate authors and 56 House sponsors, it isn’t clear if that support will translate to robust funding.

As of Tuesday, the bill still didn’t have a set funding amount but Faith in Indiana leaders say legislators should dedicate at least $130.6 million.

Rev. Dena Holland-Neal, of Merrillville’s Peace United Church of Christ, said lives had been lost in her community because of the lack of crisis response system for mental health.

“While ($130.6 million) may sound like a lot of money, it’s within our reach,” Holland-Neal said.

She cited several statistics from the Indiana Behavioral Health Commission fall report that found untreated mental illnesses cost the state $4.2 billion annually. That report recommended a $1 monthly user fee on phone bills to fund 988, a national mental health crisis hotline similar to 911, that would generate an estimated $90 million annually to fund call centers and response teams.

Last week, when asked about funding both Senate Bill 1 and another big mental health services proposal, House Bill 1006, Sen Pro Tem Rodric Bray said both chambers agreed that a funding increase was needed. The Senate version of the budget, expected to be announced in the coming week, will address that funding.

“I think you’ll find that those (bills) work together. We’ve already had some conversation about that and how to fund that,” Bray, R-Martinsville, said. “There’ll be some differences of opinion on how exactly it’s done and maybe even the dollar amount but the House is on board with getting that done.”

DeLavallade-Amos said “No one wants my story to become their story. No one wants to call 911 because they don’t want what happened to me and my family… to happen to them. I don’t want my story to become your story.”

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