Past Releases: Need for Comprehensive Care for the Mentally Ill
Washington, DC (October 30, 2006) — Morbidity and Mortality in People with Serious Mental Illness, a technical report released by the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, reveals that persons with mental illnesses die 25 years younger than the general population, largely due to chronic medical conditions. The findings clearly point to the need for increased public funding and support to give mental health centers the capacity to identify physical illnesses and ensure that patients have access to lifesaving treatments.
“The study findings are tragic but only corroborate what we already know from providers working directly with people with serious mental illness,” said Linda Rosenberg, MSW, President and CEO of the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare. “How ironic that we should work to help people recover from mental illness when their lives are endangered due to neglect of other serious health issues.”
Diabetes, hypertension, and coronary artery disease are common medical conditions that manifest in persons with serious mental illness, owing to metabolic and lifestyle issues and lack of access to adequate healthcare. The fragmented healthcare system is difficult to navigate, especially for those with mental illness, who can be cognitively impaired. They are often too debilitated to seek care from multiple providers.
“Clearly, overall well-being is a function of both mental and physical health,” said Linda Rosenberg. “Just as screening and evaluation for mental illnesses and addictions is increasingly available in primary care settings, screening and evaluation for general health problems should be available to those in mental health settings.”
Community-based mental health organizations, where a majority of individuals with serious mental illness are treated, need to better address chronic health conditions but are constrained by barriers such as lack of funding and skilled staff and liability and confidentiality issues. Despite the barriers, several community providers have evolved innovative clinical and financing models to provide comprehensive care in collaboration with primary care centers. Collaboration is evident in colocated mental health and primary care services, enhanced referral processes between mental health centers and primary care clinics, sharing of patient information between healthcare providers, and cross-training between mental health and primary care staff.
“With adequate funding and support, community mental health centers across the country are eager to replicate proven coordinated care models and provide the comprehensive care their patients need to stay alive and fully well,” said Linda Rosenberg.
National Council Resources and Initiatives on Coordinated Healthcare
National Council News, September 2006 – A newsletter dedicated to Behavioral Health and Primary Care Coordination featuring financing and clinical models and real-life provider stories of successful implementation.
For print copies, article reprints, or permission to reproduce, please email Communications@thenationalcouncil.org.
2007 Annual Conference – Institutes and workshops at the 37th Annual National Council Conference, March 26 – 28, 2007 in Las Vegas will provide expertise and practical tools for implementing clinical and financial models for coordinated care.
Primary Care Mental Health Collaborative Project – A National Council pilot project is underway to increase primary care clinics ability to screen for mental illnesses including bipolar disorder, depression and risk of suicide and to effectively connect to treatment support from community mental health organizations.
The National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) association representing 1,300 mental health and addictions treatment and rehabilitation organizations that serve nearly six million adults, children, and families in communities across America.