Susan Brooks visits Marion, Family Service Society
U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks, R- District Five, made it clear to her Grant County constituents this week that treating opioid addictions and mental health issues in the state were still among her top priorities.
During her trip to Grant County Monday, Brooks met one-on-one with constituents at Ivy Tech Community College, talked with members of Family Service Society, Inc. and toured the Flannery-Keal Home for victims of domestic violence in Grant County.
The representative said she was very impressed by the domestic violence shelter, which had “immaculately clean” living spaces for families and individuals, as well as large counseling rooms for non-residents to meet during the day for group lessons and discussions.
Prior to hearing a presentation about other FSSI initiatives, however, Brooks heard concerns regarding the American Health Care Act, which has been criticized for rolling back expansions of Medicaid provided under the Obama-era Affordable Care Act.
Family Service Society President and CEO Lisa Dominisse said she was nervous about AHCA’s effect on Medicaid, the largest source of funding for substance abuse prevention and treatment. Most of Family Service Society’s substance abuse clients are on Medicaid, HIP or HIP 2.0, Dominisse said.
“I am (also) concerned that the federal government is possibly not taking a systemic and multi-general approach as they’re looking at mental health and addictions and how that may play out over time,” Dominisse added.
Brooks admitted to that the AHCA was not perfect.
“The House Bill that I voted for is a starting point,” she later told the Chronicle-Tribune. “Now it’s gone over to the Senate, and the Senate may either not address our bill or may take the best parts of our bill and build around it. I’m not sure what’s going to happen.”
Brooks also said the only way she sees addiction services being cut back in Indiana is if Gov. Eric Holcomb asked to waive funding for those services, something she doesn’t believe the state will do due to its emphasis on solving the opioid epidemic.
In order to truly attack substance abuse, however, states must recruit more mental health and addictions specialists, according to Brooks. The shortage of these specialists, she said, is a concern she’s heard several times. Members of Family Service Society, too, shared that concern, going as far to say that the lack of specialists was perhaps the biggest issue Grant County faces in treating substance abuse. Of its 65 employees, just 15 are therapists and only two specialize in addictions.
“If we’re going to really tackle the problem, we’ve got to figure out how to incentivize and get more people to go into that field when they’re considering their career choices,” Brooks said.
Coming out of Monday’s meetings with Family Service Society, Brooks said she was overall encouraged by the work of the nearly 100-year-old organization, especially their efforts to educate Grant County children on domestic violence prevention from elementary school to high school.
“Obviously, they’re very effective at what they do,” Brooks said. “Grant County’s really lucky to have them.”