State Rep. Robin Shackleford (D-Indianapolis) recently announced her legislative agenda for the 2021 Legislative Session. Shackleford has introduced legislation to address a wide-range of issues facing our state, including justice reform and health disparities.
As Chair of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus (IBLC), Shackleford’s legislation will align with the caucus’ Justice Reform Agenda, introduced last summer. Three bills specifically will work to create fundamental changes to the state’s justice system:
House Bill 1153 expands access to health insurance by specifying that a Hoosier’s temporary lapse in substance use including incarceration, hospitalization, or other instances, cannot be used to determine their eligibility for insurance programs like Medicaid or the Healthy Indiana Plan. The bill dives further into mental health and addiction matters by requiring the state to create a program to reduce the stigma of mental illness and addiction and by requiring hospitals to establish an emergency room treatment for a patient who is experiencing an overdose.
“Hoosiers suffering from substance use disorders deserve our compassion and empathy,” Shackleford said. “Instead of jailing them or stigmatizing their struggle, we need to offer them avenues to recovery. They will stand a better chance of overcoming their addiction with our support.”
House Bill 1334 adds crime and juvenile justice to the topics that the Indiana Youth Advisory Council is to report on to the Indiana General Assembly. The bill also requires that the Council’s membership include those who represent a racial minority and those who have experienced juvenile detention, foster care, or an alternative school.
“In the Governor’s Juvenile Justice Plan released for 2018 to 2020, one of the priorities listed is to ‘strengthen the state of the juvenile justice system to improve the flow of information, data tracking and understanding of both the needs of youth and the system’,” Shackleford explained. “The best way to understand the needs of the youth involved in these systems is to ask them and actually listen to their answers. They are the ones experiencing the disparities and who will be affected by our actions.”
House Bill 1444 establishes the comprehensive student support program for the purposes of funding the formation and staffing of school based and district level comprehensive student support teams; improving staffing ratios for student support personnel; supporting the creation, expansion, and work of multidisciplinary school teams to address the school environment, school safety, school improvement, and crisis intervention and emergency preparedness; and professional development for student support personnel.
“More often than not, schools are a hostile environment for Black students,” Shackleford said. “Black students are more likely to be disciplined and labeled as ‘problematic’ than white students. We can’t expect our students to learn and grow in such an uncomfortable environment. We need to offer our students mental and emotional health support so that they can succeed and achieve all they set out to do.”
The current pandemic has exacerbated long-standing health disparities in Indiana. Shackleford is offering three bills recommended by the Indiana Health Disparities Task Force that will combat these disparities and expand healthcare access for all Hoosiers.