Kaiser VPs: It’s time to support mental health in Eagle County; vote yes on 1A (column) | VailDaily.com

Kaiser VPs: It’s time to support mental health in Eagle County; vote yes on 1A (column)

Brent Bowman and Mark Carvalho, M.D.
Valley Voices

Editor’s note: Find a cited version of this column at http://www.vaildaily.com.

One in four adults experience a mental health or addiction crisis each year — one in four.

Mental health doesn’t discriminate. Odds are, you know someone who has struggled with mental illness. And what we often forget is how frequently children struggle with issues related to mental health. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 50 percent of all lifetime cases of mental illnesses begin by age 14.

Here in Eagle County, mental illness is a hidden epidemic.

During the past six years, Mind Springs Health has seen a 367 percent increase in 24/7 support and hotline calls. So far in 2017, 10 people have committed suicide in Eagle County. The suicide rate here is double the state average.

Since 2011, the number of seventh- and eighth-graders in the county who have seriously considered attempting suicide has increased by nearly 17 percent.

These statistics are compounded by the fact that it is very difficult for Eagle County residents to access any sort of mental health care in the community.

There are no hospital beds in the county available for patients experiencing a mental health crisis. When inpatient, comprehensive care is needed, patients must be transported to Grand Junction or Denver, hours away from home. No county dollars are allocated to funding for mental health treatment or prevention.

At Kaiser Permanente, we believe in total health — body, mind and spirit. These three things work together to improve lives. Receiving mental health care is just as important as going to the doctor for strep throat. That’s why Kaiser Permanente is lending our voice now to communicate the need for better access to mental health care in Eagle County.

We know that treatment for mental illness works. Mental Health America reports that 80 percent of people who are treated for depression, for example, improve. But people who think they need to keep what they are feeling hidden or don’t know where to go for help are far less likely to seek help.

That silence drives stigma — negative, unfair and untrue beliefs that can lead to feelings of shame and isolation. Stigma can cause people living with mental illnesses to feel embarrassed and may trigger additional problems or make existing ones worse (sleep issues, anxiety and panic disorders, alcohol abuse, drug use and relationship problems, for example).

When silence ends, healing can begin. But these conversations cannot lead to Eagle County residents receiving help if they have nowhere to go for healing.

We can and must do better.

Next week, Eagle County residents will receive election ballots in the mail. This year’s ballot contains an important issue we believe the entire community can rally around — Issue 1A.

If passed, then Issue 1A will earmark $1.2 million each year for mental illness and substance abuse services in the Eagle River and Roaring Fork valleys. Specifically, the funding will be used to create mental illness walk-in and substance-abuse clinics, respite care, suicide-prevention programs, detox units and other crisis services. Providing these services within the community — at convenient and well-known locations — will hopefully make it easier for Eagle County residents to access needed mental health care.

Together, we can create a culture of acceptance and support. Vote “yes” for mental health on Nov. 7.

If you feel like you can’t cope or if you’re having thoughts of suicide, then call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. Local crisis workers are available 24/7 to listen and help. If you think you or someone you care for is having a medical or psychiatric emergency, then call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. A list of walk-in clinics in Colorado can be found at http://www.coloradocrisisservices.org.

More resources are also available through Kaiser Permanente’s Find Your Words public-awareness campaign. For more information, visit findyourwords.org.

Brent Bowman is the vice president for expansion markets at Kaiser Permanente Colorado. Mark Carvalho, M.D., is the vice president of care delivery of expansion markets at the Colorado Permanente Medical Group.

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