One in five adults in the United States – about 44 million people – experience mental health issues every year.
To effectively meet and serve the needs of this population, and ultimately improve their health, we must address the needs of the whole person – this includes physical, behavioral and social health needs. This approach is proven to better an individual’s overall health, but it requires the support of a community.
I was fortunate to attend a fundraiser last month in support of a unique organization: HERO House, in Bellevue. It is a non-profit dedicated to the recovery of mental illness through meaningful work.
HERO House and UnitedHealthcare are partnering to help people in the Seattle metropolitan area with mental health issues get jobs, return to school, find affordable housing and live independent lives. At HERO House clubhouses, teams of counselors and practitioners use a psychiatric rehabilitation model that focuses on socialization and community engagement to help people who struggle with mental health get back to living with normality.
During the HERO House fundraiser, it was evident that this community is passionate about serving the severely mentally ill in a compassionate, person-centered way. Several individuals who have used HERO House for support shared their personal stories of overcoming mental health challenges, and it was comforting to see that this loving community fully embraces the people it serves.
In the 2017 America’s Health Rankings’ report, an annual comprehensive assessment of the nation’s health on a state-by-state basis, Washington ranked 13for mental health services and providers available statewide. While Washington is ranked on the high-end of the scale, there is still work to be done.
The fact is, individuals living with serious mental health challenges have an increased risk of chronic medical conditions, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. On average, adults in the U.S. living with serious mental health issues die 25 years earlier than others – largely due to treatable medical conditions.
Today’s Medicaid populations include an increasing number of individuals with mental health diagnoses and social service needs, such as housing, transportation, employment and financial stability. This is where programs like HERO House can help.
Given the limited availability of public money for mental health in our state and county, the support of programs like HERO House is critical for getting people with mental health issues access to high-quality treatment programs and mental health providers. Learn more about UnitedHealthcare’s commitment to helping people lead healthier lives here.
Dr. Melet Whinston is the medical director of the UnitedHealthcare Community Plan