A “simple bill” brought before the General Assembly that would patch a hole preventing some inmates from quickly receiving mental health treatment upon release is on the way to Gov. Eric Holcomb after passing both chambers without amendment or a vote in opposition.
Authored by Sen. Sue Glick, R-LaGrange, Senate Bill 63 would prevent inmates who need mental health services upon release from the Department of Correction from being put out on the street with nowhere to go if a spot for them in a treatment facility or a family member is unavailable.
“This just gives the DOC the right, if you will, to hold that inmate a little bit longer and gives them a place to stay,” Glick said. “But the reason is that if they are released, some of these people will be homeless or on the street.”
Senate Bill 63 permits an offender to stay 14 days past their release date if a medical reason exists, and the stay is needed to find a new housing or treatment setting. Inmates must consent to the extension or a court order must be issued.
“Sometimes family members will step up and say they can take care of them, and then the inmate will be released to family members. But they realize that they can’t take care of them or have the resources in their home and that comes as a surprise both to the inmate and to the DOC,” Glick said. “They may need additional time to make more arrangements.”
Michael Moore of the Indiana Public Defender Council said that while SB 63 may seem like a bill it might not normally support, the council is in favor of initiative.
“I have had this in my own personal experience, where a client was very ill, very sick physically or has a very serious mental illness and is going to be transferred … but there is not bed space available,” Moore said.
“The reality is sometimes with placements you don’t know bed space availability, or if you’re on a wait list, you won’t know really probably until you place the person at a facility,” he said.
Margaux Auxier, executive director for legislative services for the DOC, said that while the department makes every effort to establish re-entry and transitional services to every offender prior to their release, occasionally circumstances do arise that cause a hiccup.
That includes instances where family members who agreed to be an inmate’s caregiver back out or the designated transitional facility can’t receive the individual.
“This bill allows in these very limited scenarios for the department to reassess the needs of the individual and set alternative quality treatment in the community,” Auxier said. “This would be in those circumstances where either the day of or the day before that the individual no longer has a place to go. This would be a very limited scenario. It only occurs zero to three times per month.”
The bill on Tuesday passed the House of Representatives with a 97-0 vote and was returned to the Senate without amendments.