By Michelle Niermann | Health Care Column

In May, we recognized Mental Health Month. Mental health remains a topic of critical importance in our country. Consider the following statistics:

  • One in five adults in the United States live with a mental illness – roughly 18.9 percent of the population or 46.7 million adults. Yet only 42.6 percent receive mental health services.
  • Mental health conditions are more common than arthritis, heart disease, cancer or diabetes.
  • An estimated 11.2 million adults – roughly 4.5 percent of the U.S. population – live with a serious mental illness (SMI) such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or major depressive disorder. Of these individuals, only two-thirds receive mental health services.
  • One in 10 children will experience a mental health condition, while one in five will develop a serious emotional disturbance (SED) that interferes with their ability to function at home, in school and in the community. Sadly, less than 40 percent of these young people receive treatment.

These statistics illustrate the need to continue efforts to increase awareness of the prevalence of mental health conditions, eliminate the stigma that still surrounds mental health treatment, develop prevention and early intervention strategies, create additional access to treatment – especially community-based treatment options – and enhance the use of evidence-based treatments. Prevention works, treatment is effective and people recover.

UnityPoint Health-Cedar Rapids has a broad continuum of services readily available to help people meet their needs and a strong connection between those services to allow for seamless care coordination. We are proud that in 2017, AbbeHealth became part of UnityPoint Health. One the area’s largest providers of outpatient behavioral health services, AbbeHealth offers expansive community mental health services and residential care for those with serious mental illness, as well as aging services, across nine counties.

In 2018, Abbe was awarded a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) grant by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Abbe is one of 52 organizations nationally and the only program in Iowa selected to receive this support. The grant is $2 million annually for two years and supports increased clinical capacity and better partnerships with primary care providers for mental health patients at-risk for chronic physical health conditions.

This is especially important because the linkage between physical and mental health care needs is unambiguous. Almost 70 percent of adults with mental health conditions also have physical health conditions. Medical costs alone for these patients are three times higher than those patients without a mental health diagnosis.

Sadly, the individual and societal toll of mental illness is abundantly obvious, from the high-profile tragedies we see on nearly a weekly basis to the quiet suffering that happens inside families or in isolation.

Help is available throughout our communities. If you or anyone you know struggles with mental health issues that impact your life, help is available.

Michelle Niermann is president and CEO of UnityPoint Health – Cedar Rapids.