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Nearly two-thirds of serious mental health needs unmet in Marion County

Access to care can be limited by workforce shortages, health system complexity, lack of transportation

For Immediate Release Oct 9, 2023

INDIANAPOLIS — For the first time, researchers have determined the mental health needs and gaps in services in Marion County, Indiana.

Indiana University researchers estimated that in 2022, 66% of Marion County residents who needed treatment for a serious mental illness did not receive it — nearly 26,000 people. The findings were published in a new report, “Community Mental Health Needs Assessment Report for Marion County.”

“This can often be a difficult population to reach,” said Marion Greene, assistant professor in health policy and management at the Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI. “Community mental health centers do a tremendous job reaching out to and supporting this population. But the reality is that this is a resource-constrained environment, with a lot of good people doing work on shoestring budgets.”

Specific populations that have been identified as vulnerable include the LGBTQ+ community, incarcerated individuals, people experiencing housing instability or homelessness, and communities of color.

Access to care can be limited for Marion County residents because of mental health workforce shortages, complexity of the mental health system and a lack of transportation or internet connection.

Using data from the four designated community mental health centers in Marion County — Sandra Eskenazi Mental Health Center, Community Fairbanks Behavioral Health, Aspire Indiana Health and Adult and Child Health — as well as the U.S. Census Bureau and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the researchers estimated that in the past year in Marion County:

  • Over 58,000 adults had an alcohol and/or illicit drug use disorder.
  • Over 163,000 adults had some type of mental illness.
  • Over 39,000 adults had a serious mental illness.
  • Nearly 41,000 adults had serious thoughts of suicide.
  • Nearly 14,000 adults made a suicide plan.
  • Over 5,000 adults attempted suicide.

The researchers also performed interviews with key stakeholders, including clients and providers of the community mental health centers, and representatives of community-level organizations and statewide agencies, to develop five recommendations for improving access to care:

  • Create sustainable funding for community mental health centers.
  • Invest in workforce development.
  • Increase access to treatment and services.
  • Provide opportunities for cross-sector coordination.
  • Reduce stigma, especially in communities of color.

“Our recommendations address the gaps in service that prevent Marion County residents from receiving the mental health care that they need,” Greene said. “Our mental health system needs more funding like SB1, which was a landmark for Indiana.”

The Indiana General Assembly passed Senate Bill 1 in spring 2023. This law focuses on statewide emergency health funding and following federal guidelines, but it was funded at about half of the proposed budget.

“In public health, we work to reduce barriers to accessing care,” Greene said. “When one in five Hoosiers are affected by some mental illness, it is not just marginalized communities who are impacted by a lack of services. To reduce these obstacles, we need more funding for our mental health system in Marion County.”

Media Contact

IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health

Andy Ware

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