News & Announcements

Sebelius Delivers Remarks on Integration of Mental and Physical Health Services (posted 12/30)

Posted: December 30, 2009

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius this month delivered remarks at Sheppard-Pratt Health System in Maryland.  Much of her speech was in support of integrated care programs such as the SAMHSA co-location grant that received a 100% increase in funding in the recently passed omnibus spending bill:

      “We know that these integrated care models can be especially effective when they combine behavioral and physical health conditions.  That’s because mental illnesses and substance use disorders usually go hand in hand with other physical conditions.  We know that the sicker you are, the more likely you are to be depressed: forty percent of older patients with advanced heart failure have major depression.  And we also know that when physical and mental health problems come together, they usually make each other worse.  For example, the cost of treating a patient a medical problem and comorbid psychiatric condition is twice as high as the cost for a patient with the medical condition alone.
     “We already have several successful examples of how to provide this kind of integrated care.  Health care systems like Cherokee Health, Intermountain Health, and the Veterans Administration have all successfully included mental health into their primary care systems.  Now the challenge is to spread these models, especially to smaller practices that may not have the same experience dealing with mental health and substance abuse problems. 
     “And we also need to make integration work the other way.  We know that barely half of public mental health centers have the capacity to provide medical treatment for physical health problems either onsite or through referral.  We need to do better, and SAMHSA is currently administering a grant program designed to figure out how we can incorporate primary care services into these community behavioral health centers.”

The full text of Secretary Sebelius’ remarks can be viewed by clicking here.



New HIV/AIDS Resource for Black Community Stakeholders (posted 12/30)

Posted: December 30, 2009

The Black AIDS Institute this month introduced their new CitySheet Series.  The CitySheet Series is a resource that provides community stakeholders who want to get involved in stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS in the Black community with local information, including health department numbers, and potential partners in one succinct document.  Each CitySheet is a snapshot view of the local picture in communities across the United States.  While most of the information presented in the sheets is publicly available in health department reports and websites, it is presented in the CitySheets with a focus specifically on Black people, framed by the Black AIDS Institute analysis and call to action. Leaders are encouraged to use this information to contact radio stations and politicians; connect the civil rights organizations with the AIDS organizations; and to talk to neighbors and community groups about the rising numbers. There is a small cost associated with each sheet: to download the order form click here. For more information from the Black AIDS Institute website, click here.  To download the Atlanta CitySheet click here.



Reauthorization of American Indian Health Bill (posted 12/23)

Posted: December 22, 2009

The Senate Indian Affairs Committee has approved a measure that would permanently reauthorize and expand many health programs for American Indians, CQ Today reports. Marking just the second time that the programs have been reauthorized, the legislation seeks to "modernize Indian health care programs and provide innovative ways to increase access to health care services for millions of American Indian and Alaska Native families," according to Committee Chair Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.). Specifically, the legislation will expand mental and behavioral health programs to address issues such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders and domestic violence prevention, as well as authorize long-term care for American Indians. In addition, the measure will authorize programs that aim to recruit and retain health care professionals to care for American Indians. The legislation will also provide incentives to use innovative methods to construct facilities and require that the Indian Health Service budget reflects medical inflation rates and population growth.  For more information click here.



Social Determinants of Health and Health Disparities (posted 12/23)

Posted: December 22, 2009

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Commission to Build a Healthier America has released a new brief that provides guidance on how to effectively frame the importance of social determinants of health in order to raise awareness and achieve greater consensus among diverse leaders about the social factors that affect health and the need to act across sectors to improve the health of all Americans—particularly those who face the greatest obstacles.

There are rich resources–decades of research and scholarly articles–documenting health disparities in America and the importance of social determinants of health. But how can we make sure that these findings are well-understood by policy makers?  One objective of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Commission to Build a Healthier America was to engage public and private sector decision makers. The challenge was how to “translate” the wide-ranging, highly-specific and technical information about social determinants and health disparities into language that would resonate with a diverse group of leaders.  For more information click here.  To download the issue brief click here.



Poor Children Liklier to Get Antipsychotics (posted 12/23)

Posted: December 22, 2009

The New York Times reports that children covered by Medicaid are given powerful antipsychotic medicines at a rate four times higher than children whose parents have private insurance.  A team from Rutgers and Columbia in a federally financed drug research initiative found that chlidren from poor families not only receive powerful psychiatric drugs more than their peers covered under private insurance, but that they also receive the drugs for less severe conditions.  These findings which are not yet published but are available on the internet are fueling a long-running debate framed by the question, "Do too many children from poor families receive powerful psychiatric drugs not because they actually need them — but because it is deemed the most efficient and cost-effective way to control problems that may be handled much differently for middle-class children?"  The Rutgers-Columbia study will be pulished next year in the peer-reviewed journal Health Affairs.  To read the New York Times Article click here.  To view the study's initial findings on the internet click here.



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