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

Indiana Republican Representative Greg Steuerwald sits at his desk on the House floor. Steuerwald is a White man, with white hair, wearing a suit.
Lauren Chapman
IPB News
Rep. Greg Steuerwald (R-Avon) has long led the Indiana House on criminal justice reform measures.

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.

Brandon Smith has covered the Statehouse for Indiana Public Broadcasting for more than a decade, spanning three governors and a dozen legislative sessions. He's also the host of Indiana Week in Review, a weekly political and policy discussion program seen and heard across the state. He previously worked at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri and WSPY in Plano, Illinois. His first job in radio was in another state capitol - Jefferson City, Missouri - as a reporter for three stations around the Show-Me State.