Increased behavioral health awareness leads to increased identification which leads to increased treatment to address a problem.

Recent research indicates that Kentucky has higher rates than the nation as a whole in a number of key areas when it comes to mental health and substance use related problems. Kentucky has higher rates of adults with past-year suicidal thoughts, past-year serious mental illness, and past-month heavy alcohol use among adults over age 21.

According to a report from the Kentucky Justice & Public Safety Cabinet, heroin overdose fatalities continue to increase in the state, with the highest per capita rates in Eastern and Northern Kentucky, while Jefferson County tops the list for total overdose deaths.

The preceding facts are alarming, but what may be more alarming are the number of people who need treatment and aren’t getting it. More than half of all Kentuckians with a mental illness are not receiving treatment. More than 80 percent of all Kentuckians with a drug dependence or abuse diagnosis and more than 90 percent with an alcohol dependence or abuse diagnosis are not receiving treatment.

There is Hope

Although the picture may look bleak, there is hope. Research shows that treatment can cut drug use in half, reduce criminal activity up to 80 percent, and reduce arrests up to 64 percent. Treatment can effectively reduce suicide risk.

There have been many changes and advancements in the behavioral health treatment field in the past 20 years. Stigma continues to reduce as more people and institutions are educated on these illnesses. Evidence based treatment approaches that improve outcomes are becoming the norm. Treatment is increasingly becoming tailored to meet the unique needs of the individual. Increased healthcare coverage has improved access and affordability of getting treatment. Family involvement not only significantly improves outcomes for the individual, but also for their family.

 No Rock Bottom Needed

Another significant change in how we approach treatment is the understanding that someone does not have to “hit bottom” in order to get better. In fact, the opposite is true – the earlier someone gets the treatment they need, the better the outcomes. These outcomes include fewer treatment episodes, fewer relapses into previous symptomatology, longer sustained recovery, increased life functioning in multiple areas and many others.

We have many challenges still to face, including increased complexity of problems and co-occurring problem areas; earlier ages of onset; and restricted access to treatment, especially in rural areas.

Addressing Issues

The first step is early identification. When we know what to look for, it is easier to identify. One frequent factor is a family history of mental health and/or substance use related problems. Another common factor is significant changes in the activities of daily life: sleep, appetite, appearance, mood, school/work performance.

Identify –> Assess –> Treat. Increased awareness leads to increased identification which leads to increased treatment to address a problem.

Our Lady of Peace, part of KentuckyOne Health, is currently the largest private provider of youth inpatient behavioral health services in the country. We offer specialty programs for children and adolescents with intellectual and development disabilities and co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. We also provide a continuum of care for adults from inpatient acute care, partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient services.

Alarming Statistics

  • Kentucky has higher rates of adults with past-year suicidal thoughts, past-year serious mental illness, and past-month heavy alcohol use among adults over age 21.
  • Heroin overdose fatalities continue to increase in the state, with the highest per capita rates in Eastern and Northern Kentucky, while Jefferson County tops the list for total overdose deaths.
  • More than half of all Kentuckians with a mental illness are not receiving treatment.
  • More than 80 percent of all Kentuckians with a drug dependence or abuse diagnosis and more than 90 percent with an alcohol dependence or abuse diagnosis are not receiving treatment.

 

-Michael Gosser, LCSW, LCADC is director of Adult Outpatient and Addiction Services at Our Lady of Peace.

 

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