By Veronica Carter
The new year will bring a new session for state lawmakers in just a couple of weeks. The Indiana General Assembly begins 2017 with a new governor, and some new faces filling House and Senate seats at the state Capitol.
Mindi Goodpaster, public policy director for the Marion County Commission on Youth, said some issues involving children will need attention, including increasing funding and access to Pre-K. She said the better-prepared children are to enter school, both in terms of academics and social skills, the more likely they are to succeed, and she said that benefits everyone.
“If we are able to offer that opportunity to as many children in the state as possible, we just naturally give ourselves the leg up for the future, because we will have a higher-educated workforce when they come out, and ready to work,” she explained.
Other topics centering around children this session will be suicide prevention legislation that’s now being drafted, efforts to prevent sexual misconduct by teachers, and policies to help reduce the number of “food deserts” in Indiana.
Goodpaster said there’s a critical shortage of mental-health and substance-abuse workers in Indiana, and suicide is the second-leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 24. She said more training is needed for teachers, school employees and others.
“We would like to also see other medical professionals trained, pediatricians, family practitioners trained, to know how to address suicide and how to do basic level of analysis with the patients that they come into contact with, because they could be an access point to mental-health services,” she said.
The General Assembly begins with the Senate convening on January 3rd, and the House a day later. During the session, Goodpaster encourages people to attend or watch committee hearings online, and to contact their local representatives about issues that are important to them.