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Black Church Coalition joins calls for fully funded mental health crisis response system

By Ben Thorp, IPB News | Published on in Community, Faith and Religion, Government, Health, Politics
Carlos Perkins of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church discusses the importance of fully funding SB1. - Ben Thorp/WFYI

Members of the Black Church Coalition along with Faith in Indiana rallied at the Statehouse Tuesday to call for lawmakers to fully fund a mental health bill moving through the legislature.

The group is among many asking lawmakers to invest in community mental health services and the existing 988 crisis response hotline.

Senate Bill 1 passed into the House last month after lawmakers stripped some $30 million for an expanded crisis response system from the bill. The funding is expected to be addressed as part of the state budget process.

But advocates point to a study by the Indiana Behavioral Health Commission, which recommends funding the state’s crisis response system at $130 million a year.

Carlos Perkins is a Senior Pastor with the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. He points to an incident last year in which an Indianapolis family called 9-1-1 for help as their son was experiencing a mental health crisis, which led to their son’s death.

“We believe that no family around the state of Indiana should experience that ever again — should experience the trauma of losing a child because you’re calling for help,” he said.

Perkins said he believes a fully funded 988 line would help prevent events like that from happening again.

State Representative Robin Shackleford (D-Indianapolis) sits on the House Public Health Committee, where the bill is expected to be heard. She said financial support for the crisis line ensures that members of law enforcement are not the first responders for mental health issues.

“We want to make sure if you’ve got a mental health issue then you’re not treated like a criminal,” she said.

SB 1 is currently in the House Committee on Public Health.

Contact WBAA/WFYI reporter Benjamin Thorp at bthorp@wfyi.org. Follow on Twitter: @sad_radio_lad.