Indiana Supreme Court takes on behavioral health crisis, uptick in caseload

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Indiana Chronicle on 11/10/2023 by Leslie Bonilla Muniz

“I love 988,” chief justice says

The criminal justice system is the primary referrer to substance use disorder treatment and largest provider of mental health care — but the judiciary is doing its part to change that, Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Loretta Rush said Thursday.

“I love the direction the Indiana judiciary is going,” she told reporters. “I love the fact that we’re working on the behavioral health … because we’d better do better than 70% of people in jail with a substance abuse or mental health issue.”

Rush also highlighted a post-pandemic recovery in caseload, changes in technology and transparency and a dragging bar passage rate in its latest annual report.

Tackling behavioral health

She said over her career, she’s encountered many a parent grateful for their child’s arrest — because through the justice system, the child could access help.

“I think that’s problematic,” Rush said.

“I think for a long time, like 40 years ago, judges just decided the case then got out the door,” she said. “Now we’re saying, ‘We’re players in our community.’ I tell judges, ‘you’ve got a superpower.’”

She said Indiana has trained its judges on substance abuse and mental health, with best practices for different people: children, pregnant women, and so on.

And judges are encouraged to be proactive: to find ways to divert people away from the system and toward resources.