May is Mental Health Awareness Month, an opportunity to raise awareness of those living with mental or behavioral health issues and to help reduce the stigma so many experience. In the U.S., one in four Americans experiences a mental illness or substance use disorder each year, and the majority also have a comorbid physical health condition.
 
I know the care teams at your hospitals and health systems are working every day to provide timely access to mental or behavioral health care in your communities. There are excellent initiatives across the country that are making a real difference in people’s lives.
 
In Joplin, MO, Turnaround Ranch, part of Freeman Health System, offers family-centered treatment, helps residents move back into mainstream society and lead productive lives, and serves youth with mental illness and developmental disability as well as youth who have not experienced multiple traumas. It serves about 100 residents each year and has achieved a 70% positive discharge rate.
 
Cambridge Health Alliance, an academic community health system in Massachusetts serving Cambridge, Somerville and part of Boston, emphasizes primary care–behavioral health integration. Its program includes a system of screening for common behavioral health disorders, a registry to keep track of patients who screen positive, active care management with proactive follow-up, education of primary care providers on behavioral health disorders, and algorithm-driven treatment.

At Carilion Clinic, the integrated system based in Roanoke, VA, that I lead, we’re expanding access to mental health care by embedding social workers in our primary care practices and offering telehealth psychiatric consults. Taking it a step further, we’re training community members, such as parents, school administrators, teachers and school counselors, to identify a mental health or substance use disorder crisis and find help.

The AHA is committed to providing resources to support your efforts working with community partners to address patients’ behavioral health needs and combat stigma. You can find links to a variety of resources, toolkits and initiatives on AHA.org.

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