Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, co-chairs the Task Force on Substance Abuse and Mental Health for Children and represents Senate District 18, which includes portions of Kosciusko County. Mindi Kensinger Goodpaster is the public policy director for the Marion County Commission on Youth.
While the Indiana General Assembly is a part-time legislature, certain groups meet throughout the year to discuss issues facing the state.
One in particular is our Task Force on Substance Abuse and Mental Health for Children, which reports to the Commission on Improving the Status of Children and is made up of practitioners in mental health, social work, law enforcement, government and substance abuse rehabilitation fields around Indiana.
Too many Hoosier children face big challenges, from opioid-addicted parents to lack of mental health providers to a high rate of attempting suicide. Our task force tackled these issues and proposed solutions.
Below are the issues we wanted to address this year, along with the bills on those topics that passed this session.
Opioid training: Indiana is one of only a handful of states that doesn't require continuing education on opioid prescribing, alternatives or best practices. Senate Enrolled Act 225 will change that, mandating that all opioid prescribers get two hours of continuing education on opioids every two years.
Available counselors: Our state suffers from a shortage of mental health and addiction counselors. One reason is because our licensing requirements are way above national standards. This encourages students to leave the state for jobs elsewhere and prevents qualified practitioners from getting their licenses when they move here. To make it easier for these important counselors to obtain a license, Senate Enrolled Act 224 requires them to complete only 700 hours, rather than 1,000 hours, in a counseling setting through a clinical practicum, internship or field experience. Plus, up to 50 percent of the supervised hours may be through virtual supervision.
Mental health: Right now, there is incomplete data on the gaps in services for medical, substance use and mental health in Indiana, which makes it difficult to know how to make improvements. To address this issue, Senate Enrolled Act 223 will help provide our state with more health workforce information by requiring some licensed health practitioners to provide information related to their work when renewing their licenses online.
Suicide awareness:Too many Hoosiers, including children, lose their lives to suicide each year. To help reduce these terrible deaths, Senate Enrolled Act 230 adds language to improve a bill passed during the 2017 session which essentially designated the Indiana Suicide Prevention Network Advisory Council as the entity to work with the Indiana Department of Education and Division of Mental Health and Addiction to determine programs offered to schools and communities related to prevention and intervention.
The passage of these bills would not have been possible if not for the hard work and dedication of all of the task force members. We are thankful to our task force for their effort and support, and are hoping to see these bills positively affect our children and state.