October 20, 2022

Faith leaders call for statewide mental health crisis care

Members of Faith in Indiana and advocates speak at a press conference at the Indiana Convention Center on Oct. 20, 2022. - Katrina Pross/WFYI

Members of Faith in Indiana and advocates speak at a press conference at the Indiana Convention Center on Oct. 20, 2022.

Katrina Pross/WFYI

Community members are calling for statewide mental health crisis care ahead of the upcoming legislative session.

Members of Faith in Indiana gathered before Friday’s state Mental Health Summit – which will be attended by Gov. Eric Holcomb and stakeholders from across Indiana – to ask legislators to fund more than $100 million for mental health response care.

“We can come together as a family, as a Hoosier family right here in the state of Indiana, to fully fund mental health crisis response, a proven way of keeping our community safe and healthy,” said Timothy Taylor, a pastor at Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church.

The ask follows calls for reform after the in-custody death of Herman Whitfield III, who died after Indianapolis police responded because he was having a mental health crisis. The recently approved 2023 Indianapolis budget includes $2 million for mental health response resources, including the creation of a clinician-led team of mental health professionals who will respond instead of police officers when residents experience nonviolent mental health crises.

Bianca Harris, an organizer with the Black Church Coalition and a mental health therapist, said this request will go another step further, expanding to all Hoosiers.

“This is for people all over the state, and even in some of those smaller counties that don't have as many resources as Marion County does, to be able to have access and support because their lives are no less valuable than those who live in the bigger counties or in the bigger cities,” Harris said.

Faith in Indiana endorses the recommendations of the Behavioral Health Commission's report which was released last month and advocates for crisis call centers, clinician-led mobile response teams and crisis stabilization units. The group is now calling for the legislature to fully implement those recommendations.

Currently, Indianapolis has a program called MCAT – the Mobile Crisis Assistance Team – but it operates at limited hours. 

Contact WFYI criminal justice reporter Katrina Pross at kpross@wfyi.org. Follow on Twitter: @katrina_pross.

Pross is a Corps Member of Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project.

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