Millions of adults in the U.S. suffer from mental health conditions. Many of those conditions start during teenage years. Treatment is attainable and vital. Wochit
Roose said the societal stigma surrounding addiction and behavioral health condition has led to communities to deal with these problems primarily through the criminal justice system, instead of investing in appropriate medical services.
The result, he said: a fragmented, an often ineffectual, treatment system.
“This care is often located in separate buildings, with separate providers, with different confidentiality and privacy laws. And, as one of the clearest examples that still rings true: with different insurance cards,” Roose said.
Tuesday’s discussion featured some of the region’s leading mental health providers, all of whom called for better cooperation between treatment centers and health care agencies.
After each speaker, the several hundred audience members were asked to vote on which of the issues raised deserve the most attention, such as hiring more mental health providers or dealing more with stigma.
Most relayed grim statistics:
- In 2016, more than 63,000 Americans died of an accidental drug overdose, Roose noted. Roughly two-thirds of those deaths were related to opioids, such as heroin and its more power cousin, fentanyl. (Florida reported 5,725 opioid-related deaths in 2016, a 35 percent increase over the previous year, according to a state report).
- An estimated 34,000 children in Lee County have a diagnosable behavioral health issue, according to Stacey Cook-Hawk, president and CEO of SalusCare. Most won’t get treatment, she said. And suicide is one of the leading causes of death among this group, she said
Cook-Hawk said the fragmented system of health care often leads to ineffectual care. She called the state of mental health care, particularly for children, a “crisis.”
“There are a number of providers providing services to children, but not all of the services that are needed. And many of the providers don’t speak to one another,” she said. “They’re not sharing the fact that, we may be working with the same children, but we’re just not talking about it.”
Lizy Dosoretz, founder and CEO of Elite DNA Therapy Services, which operates mental health facilities from Venice to Naples, spoke about the stigma sometimes attached to mental illness. She recounted her own bout of depression after the birth of one of her children 11 years ago.
“I felt bad. There was no reason why I should have felt like damaged goods. There’s no reason. I had everything going for me,” she said. “There was a stigma attached to how I was feeling.”
Other speakers included Julia Corbett, director of Synergy EAP Solutions, who discussed the economic costs of depression and anxiety; Brenda Iliff , executive director of Hazelden in Naples, who discussed growing rates of substance abuse; and Dotty St. Amand, executive director of the Arden Courts assisted-living facility in Fort Myers, about growing rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
The discussion, organized by the Health Lee community initiative, did not conclude with any specific recommendations. Rather, it will be the first in a series to address needs. Another such meeting is expected to take place in March.
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