One in four Americans experiences a mental illness or substance abuse disorder each year. Behavioral health conditions – encompassing both of the above – are the leading cause of disability and death, when considered together, for women and the second highest cause for men.Mental illnesses are specific, diagnosable disorders. Each is characterized by intense alterations in thinking, mood, and/or behavior over time. Substance abuse problems are conditions resulting from the inappropriate use of alcohol, prescription drugs, and/or illegal drugs. Successful treatment of these conditions is possible and has important implications for patients, the health care system, and the community at large.
Community hospitals can play an important role in the broad continuum of care for individuals who have behavioral health conditions. In fact, hospitals and their emergency departments (EDs) are often the primary source of acute care services for people with mental illness and substance abuse issues. Hospitals that identify and treat these patients can realize improved outcomes for their patients and communities while also using health care resources more efficiently and effectively.