State Innovation Model

Tuesday, May 01, 2018 12:18 PM
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Mental health call to action focuses on males in Colorado

by Heather Grimshaw, Communications Manager, SIM

New partnerships that stretch beyond health care clinics are key to addressing a mental health crisis in Colorado and nationwide, according to a new report issued by health care experts convened by the Colorado State Innovation Model (SIM) and released during Mental Health Month.

“The multi-disciplinary approach to addressing the mental health of boys and men will help us change the health care dynamic in our state,” said Gov. John Hickenlooper. “When health care experts work alongside other partners, we ensure Coloradans receive the care they need when they need it most.”

Strategies in “Raising the bar on behavioral health awareness, prevention and treatment for boys and men: A call to action” will help increase awareness of mental health conditions that influence all aspects of a person’s life.

The 42-page call-to-action report represents a year of work initiated and led by the SIM population health workgroup, one of seven workgroups that guide the federally funded governor’s office initiative, which helps hundreds of primary care practice sites and four community mental health centers integrate behavioral and physical health.

Answering the call for help

“This actionable report will lead to meaningful change that results in healthier Coloradans,” says SIM Director Barbara Martin, RN, MSN, ACNP-BC, MPH. “As we expand partnerships with communities, schools, employers and faith-based organizations, we increase our ability to improve health across Colorado.”

Examples of targeted outcomes published in the report:

  • By 2023, develop and implement local mental health resiliency training programs for boys and men that are used in community organizations including schools, employment settings, faith-based organizations and other community settings.
  • By 2028 Colorado will see a decrease in the percentage of men who report poor mental health.
  • By 2028 Colorado will see a decrease in suicide rates for boys, working-age men and older men.
  • By 2028 Colorado will see a decrease in prescription drug overdose deaths for boys, working-age men and older men.

Statistics cited in the report that highlight the need for a more collaborative approach to mental health:

  • In Colorado, one in five people need mental health services.
  • Colorado consistently ranks in the top 10 states for suicide death rates, ranking as fifth in 2016.
  • Colorado is seeing an upward trend in indicators for methamphetamine, heroin and prescription opiate abuse as well as fatal overdoses related to each.

“This call to action will be used to shape behavioral health in Colorado to ensure better health outcomes,” says Tista Ghosh, MD, MPH, director of public health programs and deputy chief medical officer, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, co-chair of the SIM population health workgroup.

With a timeline that stretches through 2028, the report is intended to redefine how we talk about mental health, screen for conditions, enable appropriate interventions and expand access to the right care at the right time in the right places.

Publication of the report is a culmination of time, energy and passion for SIM workgroup members, who will play active roles in disseminating findings and engaging partners in activities.

Implementation strategies

“I can already see ways this will be used in local public health agencies across the state,” says John Douglas Jr., MD, executive director for the Tri-County Health Department, co-chair for the SIM population health workgroup.

The report’s focus on boys and men is appreciated by SIM partners at the Jefferson Center for Mental Health, one of four bidirectional health homes that is integrating physical and behavioral health with SIM funding. The team started paternal and primary child caregiver depression and anxiety screenings in January and have received positive feedback from new fathers about what they see as a welcome interest in their health. Additionally, Jefferson Center has started screening all parents and primary child caregivers for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Studies have shown that high ACEs can affect a person’s physical and mental health and possibly affect their parenting skills and the family’s health.

“After a baby is born, there is a strong focus on the mother and we have noticed the father is often ignored,” says Megan Swenson, MA, LPC, LAC, manager of integrated care and care coordination for Jefferson Center. “It’s opened a lot of conversations and given us the opportunity to delve into the health of the family, the health of the child and the health of the father. We talk to fathers about why they are important to the health of their family.”

Shannon Tyson-Poletti, MD, assistant medical director of Jefferson Center, concurs. “This has been a passion of mine and for our team for a long time,” she says. “We focus a lot on moms and parenting with moms but we haven’t focused on parenting and mental health of the dads, which is equally important for the development of the family and child.”

The team screens all primary child caregivers for depression and anxiety, and offers healthy relationship counseling for adolescent young men and women, two practical examples of helping the population highlighted in the SIM report.

“Our hope with that is to prevent trauma, domestic violence, future child abuse, substance abuse and mental illness in these young people,” explains Tyson-Poletti. “Men and boys are equally important in this equation and cannot be ignored. Early intervention, rather than later intervention, leads to improved physical and mental health outcomes. We think this is a real opportunity.”

Read the report for more information and context about how you can participate in this call to action.

Posted in: Colorado Medicine


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