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Bill to divert people from jail into mental health treatment heads to governor

Lauren Chapman

People with mental health issues could be diverted to local treatment facilities instead of jail under legislation headed to the governor’s desk.

HB 1006, overwhelmingly approved by both chambers, sets out rules and a timeline for how a person who’s been arrested should be evaluated, treated and potentially committed for mental illness.

Rep. Matt Pierce (D-Bloomington) said the measure will help reduce crime and “salvage a lot of lives.”

“By getting at the underlying, root cause of why people end up in the criminal justice system: mental health issues, addiction issues,” Pierce said.

READ MORE: Lawmakers aim to get people with mental health issues into treatment, instead of jail

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Rep. Greg Steuerwald (R-Avon) said a key change to the bill late in the process ensures that while physician assistants and advanced practice nurses can examine the person, only a doctor can sign off on a petition to detain and commit the person.

“That’s also true of testifying in court – only the physician may testify in a court proceeding,” Steuerwald said.

The bill will be coupled with funding for local treatment programs. The money for that will be in the state budget.

Brandon is our Statehouse bureau chief. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

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Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.