Rep. Ziemke: Expanding access to critical health services

Posted by: Zach Weismiller  | Friday, February 5, 2016

Many communities, including ours in southeast Indiana, have witnessed an increase in drug-related incidents from heroin and meth. In fact, Indiana has led the nation in meth lab seizures for three consecutive years, and the Indiana State Police reported a 126 percent increase in heroin cases since 2010. This session, House Republicans have made it a top priority to combat the production and distribution of these illegal drugs, while also helping Hoosiers who suffer from drug addiction get the treatment they need. At the halfway point of the legislative session, lawmakers passed a number of proposals to increase access to the mental health or substance abuse services available to Indiana residents.

More than 75 percent of repeat offenders have some sort of addiction disorder or mental health issue. If enacted, House Bill 1102 would increase collaboration between probation departments and community corrections agencies in order to improve individuals’ access to substance abuse or mental health treatment. In addition, this bill would expand the eligibility for mental health and addiction forensic treatment services to include Hoosiers in pre-trial release and diversion programs. By connecting offenders with these services, we are working to keep them out of the system and get the help they need to be productive members of society.

In order to increase the number of mental health professionals in Indiana, the House of Representatives passed House Bill 1347 to allow advanced practice nurses or addiction counselors to bill Medicaid for mental health or addiction services. This measure would give health professionals more flexibility when treating mental health and addiction disorders. It would also establish the Committee on Mental Health Provider Workforce Adequacy to study the availability of licensed professionals currently in our state.

In the second half of session, I am co-sponsoring legislation which would require the State Health Department to issue a statewide order to dispense naloxone, or Narcan, over the counter at pharmacies. Narcan is a safe, non-addictive medication that reverses the effects of drug overdoses and helps keep an individual breathing normally. Under Senate Bill 187, pharmacies would also be required to keep records for two years of the amount of doses dispensed throughout the year. Currently, family members, concerned friends and other loved ones need a prescription to obtain Narcan. These individuals are often the first to respond and intervene in the event of an overdose, so it is important that this life-saving medication is easily accessible to them.

It is critical that we continue to improve the way Hoosiers can access mental health or substance abuse treatment. For more information about these bills or any issues facing our community, contact me at (317) 232-9815 or h55@iga.in.gov.

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State Rep. Cindy Ziemke (R-Batesville) represents portions of Rush, Fayette, Franklin, Ripley and Decatur counties. She serves as Vice Chair of the Family, Children and Human Affairs Committee. She also serves on the Courts and Criminal Code Committee and the Select Committee on Government Reduction.