Hoosiers facing a mental health issue can often feel as though they are trapped and unsure where to go to receive treatment. Conditions such as depression or anxiety can have crippling effects on Hoosiers and prevent them from carrying out their daily responsibilities. In the past year, more than 15% of adolescents and 8% of adults in Indiana reported having a depressive episode. We know depression and anxiety impacts individuals' overall wellbeing, and if left untreated could lead to suicide or other disorders. To help Hoosiers access care quicker, a bill I am sponsoring this session could help break down barriers and make seeking treatment for mental health conditions more accessible.
Currently, if an individual needs treatment, they must first have their condition diagnosed, which can only be done by a physician or psychologist. Oftentimes, clients are seen by another licensed professional who would then refer them to a mental health provider to officially diagnose the condition. Jumping through many hoops could possibly prolong an individual's treatment, or even deter them from seeking treatment at all. Senate Bill 82 would remove some of these obstacles by allowing clinical social workers, marriage and family therapists, mental health counselors, clinical addiction counselors or physicians assistants to diagnose and refer an individual to start mental health treatment much quicker.
We know 74 of Indiana's 92 counties have a shortage in mental health providers, and individuals do not have access to a psychiatrist. This barrier prevents nearly 10,000 Hoosiers from receiving much-needed treatment. Licensed professionals listed in this legislation are trained to evaluate symptoms in clients and create patient care plans for individuals. By expanding the list of licensed professionals who can diagnose a mental health issue, this legislation could drastically increase access for the thousands of Hoosiers needing assistance.
Senate Bill 82 comes as the COVID-19 pandemic created much uncertainly, which lead to a substantial increase in Hoosiers experiencing mental health issues. The Kaiser Family Foundation said 1 in 3 adults in the United States have experienced anxiety or depression disorder since May of 2020. This is compared to June 2019 when roughly 1 in 10 who reported those symptoms.
This bill takes an important step forward in expanding access for care for Hoosiers suffering from a mental health disorder. After receiving unanimous support from the Indiana House of Representatives, this legislation is being considered by the Senate. As we bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic, many are still dealing with depression, anxiety and other matters that could impact their emotional, psychological and social well-being. If you or a loved one is struggling and in need of resources, visit BeWellIndiana.com.
State Rep. Tony Cook (R-Cicero) represents House District 32, which includes all of Tipton County and portions of Hamilton, Madison, Delaware, Howard and Grant counties.