For decades, those struggling with behavioral and mental health problems have lived with a stigma and, too often, have suffered in the dark. More recently, a growing awareness of the impact mental health conditions have on the nation’s high prevalence of chronic conditions and an increasing rate of suicide has caused alarm—as well as a growing understanding of how a person’s physical and behavioral health needs are intertwined and must be treated on that basis.
With one in five adults experiencing a mental illness each year, most Americans are more likely to encounter someone in a mental health crisis than needing CPR.
Recognizing the relationship between behavioral and overall health, Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies are working to address this crisis through improved access, prevention and awareness. Here are some examples.
Montana - With the highest suicide rate in the country and a shortage of mental health professionals and facilities, the state is in the midst of a crisis. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana is working to change mental healthcare in the state through a number of initiatives, including creating the state’s first psychiatric residency program to bolster the number of professionals trained to serve patients’ behavioral health needs. It also launched a statewide campaign to fight the opioid crisis, rising suicide rates and the meth and heroin epidemics plaguing the state.
Idaho - The adolescent years offer a critical window to begin treating behavioral health issues. But, unfortunately, like many states, Idaho has a shortage of professionals trained in early recognition and intervention. With 35 percent of high school students reporting depressive symptoms, it was time to act. Through collaboration with educators and behavioral health professionals, the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health is bringing the Healthy Minds Partnership to schools across the state, allowing students to easily and conveniently access behavioral healthcare without leaving school. Participating schools are seeing decreased absences and improved GPAs.
New Mexico – Nearly one-third of all emergency room visits in the state are related to substance use and mental health disorders. Many times the same individuals return to the ER and, each time, they are in crisis. To stop this revolving door, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico introduced Peer Support Specialists to help those struggling with mental health or substance use disorders. The specialists are in recovery themselves and understand the unique needs of this population. The program has seen a drastic drop in ER visits (69 percent) and readmission rates (52 percent), and similar programs are being by employed by Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies in Florida and Illinois.
Pennsylvania – Postpartum depression impacts one in seven new moms with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Yet, 60 percent of women with depressive symptoms do not receive a diagnosis, and half of those do not receive treatment. The Alexis Joy D’Achille Center for Perinatal Mental Health, part of a collaboration between Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield and the Allegheny Health Network, is using innovative techniques to treat postpartum depression, focusing on the mother-baby bond and providing intensive therapy in a supportive care environment. The facility offers a full spectrum of family-focused care, allowing mothers and babies to be together throughout treatment. It includes private areas for breastfeeding and free childcare for older siblings. The center was funded, in part, by the Alexis Joy D’Achille Foundation, named for the wife of founder Steven D’Achille, who took her own life shortly after the birth of their daughter.
September is national suicide prevention month. If you or someone you know is in an emergency call 911 or the national suicide prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).