In Mission Hospital’s 2017 Community Health Assessment Report, mental health was identified as the number one healthcare priority. The report also emphasis the need to treat substance abuse as well, because of the connection between the healthcare problems. The report identified a lack of resources as one of the most prominent problems. Some ways of addressing these problems include: (1) expanding preventive resources through training and education initiatives; (2) increasing treatment resources, by partnering with local medical professionals and private organizations; and (3) improving public transit so that individuals are able to more easily travel to the doctor and arrive on time (which cuts down on wait-times at the doctor);
First, we must improve access to preventive resources to reduce the frequency and severity of mental illness. Simple things like behavioral games aimed at children show a significant reduction in behavioral problems. Early intervention, however, is critical to
prevention in most cases. Identifying children who have had adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and connecting them with helpful resources would go a long way to reducing mental illness (and substance abuse) in our community going forward. City councils also have an important role to play in suicide prevention, which we can start to accomplish through simple steps such as awareness and stigma-reduction campaigns.
Second, we must expand mental health treatment resources. Mental illness is a complex issue, and finding the right treatment for any one individual’s mental health issues is critical. That is why increasing resources so that more individuals can gain access to treatment—and more importantly gain access to the right treatment—is so important. Coordinating with local medical service providers will ensure that all community partners are acting in concert to address the same goals, and it will also ensure that resources are being allocated in the most efficient way possible.
Third, we must increase access to existing mental health resources. One very effective step we can take is to launch education campaigns to teach residents about what mental health resources are available and how to access them. Small steps such as merely
improving local public transit will greatly enhance the ability of residents—particularly elderly—to access mental health services. Helping patients arrive at their appointments on time will also reduce wait-times for everyone, which in turn helps doctors to see to patients more efficiently.
Working to expand mental health resources and decrease instances of mental illness will make our whole community healthier—and it might even save us money.The total cost of all mental health and substance abuse disorder treatment in 2009 was over $171 billion. In 2012, the cost of just ER visits due to mental illness to Americans was nearly $500 million. So by improving access to mental healthcare and reducing mental illness, we can significantly reduce healthcare costs as well as save lives.