NOV. 7, 2003 | The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) will help merge Arkansas health care for mental illness and substance abuse disorders in a project that could push the state to the forefront of mental health care.
The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) recently awarded $3.5 million to the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) for a five-year project to merge and transform health services that have traditionally been separate. Laurence Miller, M.D., a professor of psychiatry in the UAMS College of Medicine and medical director of the DHS Division of Behavioral Health and its inpatient facility, Arkansas State Hospital, will lead the project.
The SAMSHA award follows the merger of divisions in the state Department of Health and DHS into the new Division of Behavioral Health in DHS in July.
“Governor Mike Huckabee and the Arkansas General Assembly have been visionary in seeing the need to coordinate care for persons who are struggling with a major mental illness and who are also addicted to alcohol or another drug,” Dr. Miller said. “Their leadership in merging two state agencies persuaded SAMSHA to choose Arkansas as one of only seven states to receive this funding. With this grant, we’ll be able to help communities around the state treat both medical conditions at once.”
Dr. Miller noted that while combined treatment for mental illness and addiction is clearly more successful than separate treatment, merging bureaucracies and funding have been almost insurmountable problems for local communities.
Combinations of mental illness and addiction, known as dual diagnoses, are common. One study shows that 37 percent of alcoholics suffer from a mental illness, such as depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia, some time during their lives – approximately 2.3 times the rate for the general population. People who become addicted to illegal drugs are 4.5 times more likely to suffer from mental illnesses. People with dual diagnoses are significantly more likely to be hospitalized, in prison, violent, or to contract sexually transmitted diseases.
Dr. Miller and other psychiatrists and health services researchers at UAMS will guide a three-year process to streamline diagnosis and treatment of people with dual diagnoses. The process will include:
*Creation of a questionnaire that health care workers in clinics, physicians’ offices, and other programs can use to help identify people with possible mental illness and substance abuse disorder
*Creation of a standard procedure for referring patients for diagnosis and treatment
*Training conferences and an Internet-based training program for follow-up and training later participants
*Finding gaps in services around Arkansas
*A study of funding for mental health and substance abuse treatment
*Updating licensure and credentialing for mental health and substance abuse professionals
Much of the SAMSHA funding will go to community-based treatment programs to offset the costs of new procedures. The UAMS Centers for Mental Healthcare Research will receive approximately $800,000 for an independent evaluation of the reorganization.
DHS and UAMS also are collaborating on an innovative program to foster healthier pregnancies in the state. The rate of low birthweight babies in Arkansas is above the national average and low birthweight tends to lead to long-term health problems for children. ANGELS (Antenatal and Neonatal Guidelines, Education and Learning System) gives obstetricians and family physicians information and assistance in high-risk pregnancy cases.
Links on This Page
Centers for Mental Healthcare: http://www.cmhr.uams.edu/
UAMS Receives: http://www.uams.edu/update/absolutenm/templates/news_release_elizabeth.asp?articleid=340&zoneid=34
UAMS, Arkansas: http://www.uams.edu/today/2003/082003/ANGELS.htm
UAMS Creates: http://www.uams.edu/today/2003/011603/DepressionCheck.htm
UAMS Scientist: http://www.uams.edu/today/2003/010103/RuralDrugAbuse.htm
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