The report shows that untreated mental health problems cost Indiana more than $4 billion each year

An analysis released by the Indiana Behavioral Health Commission shows that untreated mental illness costs Indiana nearly $4.2 billion a year.

“Without understanding the full economic impact of untreated mental illness and the societal costs, it is difficult for policymakers and decision-makers to know where to best target interventions and where to allocate limited resources and funding,” said Heather Taylor, Richard’s health researcher M. Fairbanks School of Public Health, said.

The Indiana Behavioral Health Commission was developed by the Indiana General Assembly in 2020. One of his goals was to determine the cost of untreated mental health problems in the state, so a research team was formed. These included Taylor, Justin Blackburn, Ph.D. Health Policy and Management Program Director and other experts from the Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, the Irsay Institute and WISE Indiana.

“This research was important because untreated mental illness poses a major public health challenge and more attention is needed to understand barriers to entry and the consequences of undertreatment,” Blackburn said. “We wanted to better understand the economic implications, which nobody has done before.”

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The report showed that lost productivity costs an estimated $885 million each year. Direct health care, such as Medicaid and private insurers, costs nearly $708 million, direct non-health care, which includes Indiana’s criminal justice system and assistance to the homeless, costs about $115 million, and indirect costs such as nursing care and unemployment for the disabled cost about $973 million.

“I knew things like the incarceration system and things like that were flawed, but I didn’t realize how much money we were losing because we didn’t recognize or were unaware of mental health issues,” Lauren Baumgardner, an IU O’ freshman at the Neill School said.

The Indiana Behavioral Health Commission’s full report makes many recommendations, one of which is to implement a three-pronged model for people experiencing a mental health crisis. The model involves having someone to turn to, someone to respond to, and a safe place for the person to seek help.

“IU students and all Hoosiers should be aware of the new 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline,” Blackburn said. “This is an alternative to 911, which can be stigmatizing for people as it could affect law enforcement.”

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Other resources that can be used are available in Counseling and Mental Health Services. It is located on the fourth floor of the Student Health Center and is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. IU students who have paid the student health fee receive two free CAPS sessions along with first-time customers receive an additional free 30-minute assessment. They also offer online workshops that teach students strategies for dealing with stress, depression, and anxiety.

“We hope this work draws attention to the cost of inaction relative to the investment in improving access to mental health treatment,” Blackburn said.