Forcing the Conversation on Behavioral Health

Nurse Leader Insider, May 5, 2016

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This article first appeared in the May 2016 issue of HealthLeaders Magazine.

Clarence E. Jordan, MBA, has dealt with a diagnosis of co-occurring mental health issues and substance abuse for the past 30 years of his adult life. It may come as a surprise to some that a person with behavioral health issues could be successful as a business and healthcare leader. The stereotype that those with behavioral health problems are violent, unemployable, strange, or erratic still exists. In fact, before he received a behavioral health diagnosis, Jordan had a similar image of those dealing with mental illness.

"Like many people, I probably saw mental illness as a homeless individual with a shopping cart with all their belongings loaded into it, pushing it down the street," says Jordan, the vice president of wellness and recovery for Boston-based Beacon Health Options, a behavioral health management company that serves 48 million people in the United States and the United Kingdom. "When I was given my original diagnosis, it came as a real shock to me because I did not ever feel that I had a mental illness. Life to me was normal."

For many Americans, living with behavioral health issues is the norm. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2014 an estimated 43.6 million—or 18.1% of U.S. adults age 18 or older—experienced any form of mental illness (AMI, which includes mental, behavioral, or emotional disorders, but excludes developmental and substance use disorders). That same year, about 4% of U.S. adults, nearly 10 million, had serious mental illness (SMI, which results in serious functional impairment that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities).

That's a significant portion of the population, and the challenges surrounding delivery of behavioral healthcare—stigma, access to care, utilization of resources, funding, cost, and reimbursement—are significant as well.

These issues have dogged behavioral healthcare for decades, but now, with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's emphasis on population health, quality outcomes, and value-based payment models, industry leaders are recognizing the integral role that behavioral healthcare must have in patient care, and they are developing solutions.

To continue reading, go to HealthLeaders Media.

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