Mental Health Integration: the Focus of 2018 Annual KHC Conference

In planning our 2018 annual conference, the KHC Executive Committee quickly identified mental and physical health integration as the focus, a clear indication that mental health has become the priority for many our key healthcare stakeholders.

We know that our community is facing alarming rates of mental health issues, including substance use disorders. Kentucky has three times as many deaths to suicide as homicide, and overdose deaths are rising at unprecedented rates. Nearly a third of Kentucky high school students report they feel sad or hopeless, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Kentucky leads the nation in many of the risk factors linked to poor mental health such as poor physical health, sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, smoking, and poverty. Stress, trauma, and negative coping skills are also significant risk factors for developing depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders.

Despite these statistics, persons with mental illness are under-identified and under-treated. Primary care providers are the backbone of the healthcare delivery system and are seeing a greater volume of patients with mental health issues than even mental health providers. They “prescribe 79 percent of antidepressant medications and see 60 percent of people being treated for depression in the United States,” according to researchers. Patients dying by suicide see primary care more than twice as often as mental health providers and 45 percent saw a primary care clinician in the month before their death (see research).

The World Health Organization has called integrating mental health services into primary care as the most viable way of closing the treatment gap for untreated mental illnesses. Integrated models of care are seeing success in communities across the country, including the Collaborative Care Model developed jointly by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine (APM). The Collaborative Care Model and other integrated care models work to better meet the whole health needs of people with mental health conditions.

The barriers individuals face in getting mental health services are many and go well beyond the healthcare delivery system. One of the biggest barriers to individuals seeking treatment is the stigma associated with mental illness. The KHC conference will feature keynote speaker Mike Veny, who will discuss his personal journey and how mental health stigma can be transformed (see keynote highlights here).

The KHC annual conference will be held on March 14, 2018. Registration will open in October. The conference will feature evidenced-based approaches, best practices, and successful models of addressing mental health and integrating care. Topics for the day include:

  • Mental Health Stigma
  • StAMINA – Student Alliance for Mental Health Innovation and Action
  • Collaborative Care Model
  • Integrated Care Models
  • Addiction Treatment Models
  • Mental Health Co-Morbidities, Hepatitis C
  • Mental Health Innovation and Technology
  • Successful Employer Models of Improving Mental Health

Having a mentally healthy community means that each of us are better able to function during stressful situations, form good interpersonal relationships, set and achieve realistic goals, seek help during difficult times, and enjoy life to the fullest.  To improve the mental health of our community, key healthcare stakeholders will need to collaborate to make systemic cultural and organizational changes. The KHC is currently investigating how to best support efforts to increase effective mental health prevention and treatment services for Kentuckiana youth and adults and will be announcing its plans at the 2018 KHC conference.