A new study from the nonprofit Mental Health America puts Indiana 45th in the nation when it comes to mental health care.
The survey gauges achievement in 15 different metrics, including the percentage of adults and children who report mental illness, the number of adults with dependence or abuse of drugs or alcohol and number of adults with a disability who can’t afford to see a doctor.
Mental Health America of Tippecanoe Director Jennifer Flora says the organization fields around 20 phone calls a week from people with suicidal thoughts. She says more people are seeking treatment just as the number of mental health professionals in Indiana is dwindling.
Flora says Indiana University’s medical school – the only one in the state -- graduates fewer psychiatrists each year than are leaving the profession.
“And then several of those psychiatrists that graduate will go to the East Coast, typically the East Coast, some to the West Coast. They are not staying in Indiana,” Flora says. “The whole country is seeing a shortage of psychiatrists, so they can pretty much write their ticket to wherever they want to live.”
The rankings also measure drug and alcohol dependence. MHA Tippecanoe Director of Education Karla Courtney says the state’s opioid epidemic significantly affect’s Indiana’s rankings.
“So if they’re not seeking those professional services, they’re probably depending on those substances to cope and manage a mental illness on their own,” Courtney says.
Flora says she would like to see more nurse practitioners trained in mental health as well as higher reimbursement rates for professionals.
Both Flora and Courtney say there’s a stigma around mental illness in Indiana, but communities are slowly starting to treat the problem as a health — and not a moral — issue.
The data reflects Indiana’s climate between 2011 and 2014. MHA makes the case that states without Medicaid expansions by that time had a higher prevalence of uninsured adults with mental illness. Indiana’s Medicaid expansion, HIP 2.0, didn’t start enrolling people until 2015.
“These rankings are based on data from 2011-2014 and indicate a challenge our state has been addressing head-on for the last several years,” says Jim Gavin, Indiana Family and Social Services Administration spokesman, in an email.
Gavin says since 2014, the state has established the Governor’s Task Force for Drug Enforcement, Treatment and Prevention as well as a student loan repayment program that provides financial assistance to mental health professionals who choose to remain in Indiana.
Reporter's note: If you or someone you know is having mental health issues, Mental Health America's crisis line -- 1-877-419-1632 -- is available for support and guidance.