Noblesville mayor pushing for statewide proactive mental health programs

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. — The COVID-19 pandemic brought to light a growing need for accessible mental health care across the state and country.

Some lawmakers and community leaders have since been working on creative solutions, including one that may expand beyond its central Indiana city.

Three years ago, NobleACT was launched in Noblesville – a joint effort between service providers, and the police and fire departments to give more comprehensive responses to mental health emergencies.

“We have seen great success here in the city of Noblesville, and my thought is we need to go tell our story,” Mayor Chris Jensen said.

One of the stars of that story is Officer Luna, the state’s first public safety therapy dog to focus solely on crisis response. She joins police on calls to hundreds of homes.

Sgt. Ben Lugar runs the NobleACT program and explained that merely bringing a dog like Luna on calls for service can help de-escalate tense situations and calm somebody experiencing a mental health crisis.

“We’ve seen a decrease in high-risk 911 calls for individuals that we used to respond to pretty frequently,” Sgt. Lugar said. “Now those individuals are connected to care.”

Decreasing the 911 call volume is one reason Jensen is promoting NobleACT through his new “Indiana Community Cares” initiative to inspire similar programs in other communities. By connecting at-risk Hoosiers with clinicians and long-term follow-up, he says mental health episodes can be prevented and lives can be saved.

“Also, if we can get them into services prior to them becoming incarcerated or into our hospital system, we’re actually saving taxpayer dollars,” Jensen said.

After thousands of successful NobleACT calls, he’s proposing a $150,000 grant for other cities investing in proactive paramedicine to fund things like hiring a licensed clinical social worker to assist first responders.

“We’re going to go lobby the legislature and ask them to come alongside us in this mission as well,” Jensen added.

State Sen. Scott Baldwin plans to push for legislation authorizing the program during the 2024 session.

“As a retired police officer, I’ve seen firsthand the challenges of untreated mental health in our communities,” Sen. Baldwin said in a news release. “The success of Noblesville’s NobleACT program underscores the need for proactive approaches like the Indiana Community Cares Initiative. I’m committed to advancing this vital initiative, enabling Indiana to partner with communities in an effort to ensure every Hoosier receives the support they deserve.”

If you’re a Noblesville resident who’d like to learn more about services provided by NobleACT, you can reach out to this non-emergency number: (317) 770-1420.

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