Costa Mesa, California -
Costa Mesa, CA - Nearly 9 million Americans are battling both addiction and mental illness, but only 7.4% receive treatment for this “dual diagnosis.” For the rest, says a new report, lack of coordinated care reduces the effectiveness of the treatment they receive and harms other aspects of their lives – even contributing to their death.
“The health system’s reliance on this either/or ‘primary diagnosis’ determines not only where people enter care, but how they self-identify moving forward, putting them at risk of relapse or never having their illnesses fully treated,” declares the report, “In Their Own Words: How Fragmented Care Harms People with Both Mental Illness and Substance Use Disorder.” The report was compiled by the California Health Care Foundation (CHCF), an independent philanthropic organization that works to improve the state’s health care system.
The problem goes far beyond the state lines of California, says the CHCF administrator who commissioned the report.
“It’s not just a California problem or an American challenge,” wrote Katherine Haynes, a CHCF senior program officer, in a recent Los Angeles Time op-ed. “Throughout the world, far too many people have suffered because they were treated primarily for one diagnosis rather than for their intertwined conditions.
For Haynes, the problem literally hit home with the death of her son, Aaron, who suffered from substance abuse and tried to ease his pain with drugs.
“Like a lot of teenagers, he was sad and looking for a place to belong, particularly when divorce broke up our family,” she wrote in the Times. Aaron started smoking marijuana at age 14 and told her he was feeling better. “Then, at 14, someone gave him meth.”
“A week before he died, Aaron was transferred from jail to a crisis residential mental health facility, where he was scheduled to see a psychiatrist and get his medication recalibrated. He arrived, without medication, after the psychiatrist had left for the day. He disappeared within the first 24 hours. A week later, on July 25, 2018, he was found dead near Highway 580 West in Richmond, Calif. He had hanged himself.”
Aaron’s tragic story is just one of many. The CHCF findings include the following troubling statistics: 1 in 3 people (33%) with a substance use disorder has a co-occurring mental health condition, 1 in 5 people (20%) with a severe mental health disorder will also develop a substance use disorder, and only 1 in 13 people (7.4%) with dual diagnoses receives treatment for both conditions.
To begin working toward a solution, CHCF researchers interviewed 54 people diagnosed with mental illness together with substance use disorder. They also spoke with the participants’ family members and close friends. The subjects described the difficulties of coping with both addiction and mental illness, further stressed by poverty and homelessness – and the relief they felt when treatment for both was integrated.
“When you’re homeless, and you don’t have anywhere to live and you’re mentally ill, it’s hard to find proper treatment,” said one man. “The breakthrough for me was when I got housing. I was assigned a case manager, a therapist, a psychiatrist, a substance abuse counselor, a team that came together to give me support, and I didn’t have that for years. I believe I got the right diagnosis and the right medication.”
This is what works, the CHCF report concludes: coordinated care across mental health, substance use and physical health systems. “Many people with dual diagnoses emphasized that they achieved well-being only when all their health care providers worked together,” the report affirms, “and when other supports were available to them: housing, employment training and placement, and transition from residential treatment or incarceration.”
Dual diagnosis has long been a cornerstone of care at Resurgence Behavioral Health, which integrates treatment for addiction and mental health. Programs treat both drug and alcohol addiction, from detox through residential and outpatient care, sober living and long-term follow-up.
Anyone in need of help for substance abuse, mental health, or both, can speak with a treatment specialist any time, day or night, by calling (855) 458-0050. Visit www.resurgencebehavioralhealth.com to learn more.
SOURCE: Press Advantage [Link]
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