As our nation and our community continue to study the impact of health care reform legislation, I would like to take this opportunity to share my thoughts about the need to ensure that behavioral health care is central to these conversations.
As Vice President of Business Development at Poudre Valley Hospital and a Board Member of Larimer Center for Mental Health (LCMH), I am well-acquainted with the costs and results of untreated mental health and addictive disorders in our community. Consider this:
- People with serious mental illness are dying 25 years earlier than their counterparts without mental health issues; 60% of these deaths are from natural causes such as heart disease and diabetes.
- Mental illness is the leading cause of disability for people between the ages of 15 – 44; by 2013, it is estimated that lost productivity in this population will cost the U.S. $300 billion.
- Individuals with untreated mental and substance use disorders are overcrowding our jails and emergency rooms, costing our community significantly more than prevention and treatment would.
As reform expands coverage to the estimated 46 million uninsured Americans, we all can agree that we must, at the same time, seek to control costs. This can not be accomplished without addressing behavioral health. Prevention, early intervention, and treatment for mental health and substance use disorders work, and need to be central to our conversations about reform.
Among the many issues central to health care reform, I ask that you take this opportunity to consider the true costs of untreated behavioral health disorders. If the lives that can be saved are not enough to convince you, please consider the financial impact that will result when we treat individuals as whole people. Diseases of the mind can not, and should not, be addressed separately from diseases of the body.
Poudre Valley Hospital
Vice President of Business Development