Category Archives: Guest Blog

Purposeful Collaboration: Teaming Up to Increase Community Impact

By: Dr. Joshua Thomas, Executive Director, National Alliance on Mental Illness in DE

Josh Photo - CroppedAstraZeneca recently hosted a number of non-profit partners at our North America Headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware for an event, entitled Purposeful Collaboration, which was developed based on their interest in collaborating across organizational lines for greater impact. Experts in collaboration from The Delaware Alliance for Nonprofit Advancement shared a model called Collective Impact and the groups in attendance had the opportunity to connect with one another, share information about their priorities and begin to explore potential for collaboration.

Among those in attendance was Dr. Joshua Thomas, Executive Director, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in Delaware. Below Dr. Thomas shares his reflections on the importance of collaboration as a mindset and the role that he believes it can play in generating greater societal impact.  

The recent Purposeful Collaboration event hosted by AstraZeneca provided non-profits like my own an opportunity for communication, exploration, brainstorming and identifying areas for collaboration. Our facilitators from the Delaware Alliance for Non-profit Advancement led us in a rich discussion to explore the needs of our community and how our missions aligned to help meet these challenges.

Our discussion of organizational partnership paralleled a recent situation in my neighborhood. My family was recently awakened in the middle of the night during a terrible storm and discovered a house in our neighborhood was on fire. The family residing in the home narrowly escaped and lost the majority of their belongings and valuables. Within minutes, those on our street went from being polite neighbors to concerned friends offering comfort and pooling resources to support the family. By working together and communicating we were able to support one another and let the family who lost their home know they had a community of caring people behind them.

Those of us in the non-profit world can learn from this difficult situation. It is easy for us to get stuck in our silos, focused on our mission and fail to recognize areas where we align. But collaboration needs to be internalized as a standard way of thinking and serving our community. Many of our groups provide access to basic resources like adequate food, housing and education and others support those struggling with serious health conditions including mental illness. We have an opportunity to offer hope, encouragement, and most importantly resources to offer substantial assistance for community members in need.

By sharing resources and ideas across organizations, the nonprofit community can increase our impact focused on specific community problems. At NAMI Delaware, I am excited to partner with those non-profits working in educational environments and healthcare settings to increase access to our no-cost mental health education and support programs. This kind of collaboration can help increase success not just for NAMI Delaware, but for our partnering organizations and their participants.

As members of the community focused on addressing significant societal issues it is our responsibility to continue to remove barriers to communication and partnership. It is clear there are opportunities for non-profits and the corporate sector to work together to tackle significant community concerns. I am energized by our discussion and ready to seize opportunities to unite our efforts to make lasting and positive change for those in our community in need of our support.

Dr. Joshua Thomas is the Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Delaware (NAMI Delaware). In this capacity he serves as the Chief Executive Officer of this non-profit organization, focused on advocacy, support, education and housing for people living with mental illness and their families

 

For more about the Collective Impact model for collaboration by visiting the Delaware Alliance for Nonprofit Advancement.

Alert Day: Don’t Be a Risk Taker

By David G. Marrero, PhD President, Health Care & Education, 2015, American Diabetes Association

marrero headshotLet me share some shocking statistics with you: Of the nearly 30 million people in the United States with diabetes, a quarter of them don’t even know they have the disease; that’s 8 million people! This is quite serious since many of these individuals can have diabetes for years before it is diagnosed. Unfortunately, this allows many of the serious complications associated with poorly controlled diabetes (heart disease, kidney disease, blindness, amputations) to develop. People with type 2 diabetes don’t always show symptoms at first. As a result, many go 7 to 10 years without a diagnosis. By that time, damage to their bodies has already been done.

On top of this, 86 million American adults have prediabetes, a metabolic condition that increases risk for developing type 2 diabetes. In prediabetes blood glucose (sugar) is higher than normal, but not high enough (yet) to be called type 2 diabetes. Type 2 accounts for about 95 percent of diabetes diagnoses in the United States.

Now ask yourself: Could this be me, or someone I know? Fortunately, there are ways that type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed when individuals arm themselves with knowledge about their health. Equally fortunate, it’s pretty easy to assess your risk.

Today is the American Diabetes Association Alert Day®. Held each year on the fourth Tuesday in March, it’s the Association’s “wake up call” asking Americans to take the Diabetes Risk Test to learn their risk for type 2 diabetes.

The brief Diabetes Risk Test asks simple questions about your weight, age, family history and other potential risk factors. It gives you a numeric score representing your risk for developing type 2 diabetes—and provides steps you can take to lower that risk, if needed.

Who’s at Risk?

Diabetes is serious, and early diagnosis is crucial to successful treatment. Many people don’t realize it, but this disease can affect anyone.

People who are overweight, live a sedentary lifestyle and over the age of 45 should consider themselves at higher risk for type 2 diabetes. Your background matters, too: African Americans, Hispanics or Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and people who have a family history of type 2 diabetes also are at an increased risk for developing the disease.

Take it. Share it. Step Out.

The good news is that type 2 diabetes can be largely prevented or delayed through lifestyle changes such as modest weight loss, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, and eating healthfully. But first, you must know your risk.  There is ample evidence that if you are overweight, losing 7 percent of your weight can reduce your risk by 58-60 percent.  For many people this is 12-17 pounds!

Take the time to find out if you or someone you know is at risk for type 2 diabetes, then follow up with your doctor. And if you’re in the health care field, know that the Association’s Diabetes Risk Test is available to your patients in English and in Spanish, online and in print. You can call 1-800-DIABETES to obtain paper copies. While Alert Day starts on March 24 and continues through April 21, the test is available year-round on the Association’s website.

This year, Walgreens is supporting the Alert Day, so you can also ask your local pharmacist for a copy of the Diabetes Risk Test.

Walking is one of the best forms of exercise, and signing up for Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes® is a fantastic way to support the Association while getting more active. These events are held in cities nationwide, mostly in the fall. So find the walk nearest you and consider joining a team or starting one of your own.

For 75 years, the American Diabetes Association has been committed to preventing and curing diabetes and improving the lives of all people affected by diabetes. Though much progress has been made since the organization was founded in 1940, there is still much work to be done.

Each person who takes our test and acts on the results gets us that much closer to stopping diabetes. Don’t wait any longer. Take the test now: http://diabetes.org/takethetest.

Take it. Share it. Step Out. You need to know. #DiabetesAlert

About David G. Marrero, PhD
Dr. Marrero is the American Diabetes Association’s President of Health Care & Education and the J.O. Ritchey Endowed Professor of Medicine and Director, Diabetes Translational Research Center, at Indiana University School of Medicine. He has worked in diabetes education and research for more than 38 years and has more than 300 publications in lay and professional journals.

Connecting Across the Country for Heart Health

By James W. Blasetto, MD, MPH, FACC

J Blasetto-headshotEach year, the AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation looks forward to National Heart Month in February when we meet our new grant awardees and see how they work to improve cardiovascular health in local communities.

This year was no different. The Foundation’s Connections for Cardiovascular HealthSM program awarded over $2.6 million in grants to 13 organizations, with Foundation representatives attending events in Illinois, Maryland, California, West Virginia and Michigan, in addition to a kickoff event in Mississippi.

We support these programs because they reach people in the places where they live and work – whether it is at schools, churches or even mobile clinics – while partnering with community health workers, health promoters and personal coaches to encourage healthy behaviors. Additionally, these innovative programs focus on delivering positive outcomes for patient health by providing tools that are tailored to individual cultures and communities.

Here are some highlights, starting with two events I was honored to attend in Springfield, Ill., and Charleston, W.Va. (and be sure to click on the organization names to learn more about the great work they do):

Springfield, Illinois

On February 18, the Foundation made contributions to three organizations at an event in Springfield, as Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner declared February 18 “Connections for Cardiovascular Health Awareness Day”:

  • OASIS Institute in St. Louis, Mo.; $223,501: “Get Pumped!” aims to improve the health behaviors of adults living in nine high-risk ZIP codes in the St. Louis area who have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease by providing health screenings, education and exercise programs at community locations using mobile health and evidence-based programs.
  • HSHS St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, Ill.; $205,564: “Launching a Tele-Heart Pathway” aims to address Healthy People 2020 objectives by identifying and partnering with heart failure patients and their caregivers in 13 disadvantaged communities using daily tele-health remote monitoring, support, education and evidence-based medication adjustments.
  • Presence Covenant Medical Center in Urbana, Ill.; $168,492: “The Cardiovascular Awareness and Risk Reduction Program” is designed to engage the community and Presence Covenant Medical Center’s community health partners to improve the quality of cardiovascular care through screening, education, treatment and support of healthy lifestyles, targeting uninsured and underinsured individuals.
IL 1

From left to right: Mark R. Stampehl, MD, MA, FACC, Tele-Heart Pathway Project Director, Medical Director of Heart Failure, HSHS St. John’s Hospital; Dr. Charles Lucore, President and CEO, HSHS St. John’s Hospital; Jared C. Rogers, MD, CPE, FAAFP, President and CEO, Presence Covenant Medical Center; Dr. Lakshmi, Christie Clinic Cardiologist and Champion of the Cardiovascular Awareness & Risk Reduction Program at Presence Covenant Medical Center; Lucinda ‘Cindy’ Magsamen, RN, BSN, Sr. Provider Engagement Executive, Presence Covenant Medical Center; Michael P. McMillan, President & CEO, Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis; Marcia M. Kerz, President, OASIS Institute; James W. Blasetto, MD, MPH, FACC, Chairman, AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation and Rich Buckley, President, AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation

Charleston, West Virginia

West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin declared February 24 to be “Connections for Cardiovascular Health Awareness Day” in conjunction with an event where the Foundation presented grants to three organizations:

  • Ashland-Boyd County Health Department in Ashland, Ky.; $223,000: “Appalachian Partnership for Positive Living and Eating (A.P.P.L.E.)” works to promote healthy childhood and youth development and control obesity among 750 children and their caregivers through a voluntary, community-based case management program in Boyd and Greenup, Ky.
  • West Virginia Health Right, Inc. in Charleston, W. Va.; $191,028: “SCALE (Sustainable Changes and Lifestyle Enhancement)” aims to achieve sustained weight loss in 50 obese patients to improve their health status and reduce cardiovascular risk factors.
  • Mary’s Health Wagon in Wise, Va.; $250,000: “Heart Health 1, 2, 3: Comprehensive Cardiovascular Disease Initiative for Diabetes Mellitus, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity” is designed to identify, minimize and prevent cardiovascular disease in individuals with these conditions and Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver disease.
From left to right: James W. Blasetto, MD, MPH, FACC, Chairman, AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation; Tim O’Toole, Director of Rehabilitation, Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital; Holly West, Public Health Services Manager, Ashland-Boyd County Health Department; Jennifer Klaiber, Public Health Services Coordinator/ A.P.P.L.E. Program Coordinator, Ashland-Boyd County Health Department; David Shapiro, Vice President, Board of Directors, West Virginia Health Right, Inc.; Dr. Angie Settle, Executive Director, West Virginia Health Right, Inc.; Jennifer Burchett, Nurse Administrator/A.P.P.L.E. Program Director, Ashland-Boyd County Health Department and L. Kristin Newby, MD, MHS, Trustee, AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation

From left to right: James W. Blasetto, MD, MPH, FACC, Chairman, AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation; Tim O’Toole, Director of Rehabilitation, Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital; Holly West, Public Health Services Manager, Ashland-Boyd County Health Department; Jennifer Klaiber, Public Health Services Coordinator/ A.P.P.L.E. Program Coordinator, Ashland-Boyd County Health Department; David Shapiro, Vice President, Board of Directors, West Virginia Health Right, Inc.; Dr. Angie Settle, Executive Director, West Virginia Health Right, Inc.; Jennifer Burchett, Nurse Administrator/A.P.P.L.E. Program Director, Ashland-Boyd County Health Department and L. Kristin Newby, MD, MHS, Trustee, AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation

Baltimore

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan declared February 19 “Connections for Cardiovascular Health Day” and the Eastern Shoshone Tribal Business Council declared February as “Heart Health Month.” Our team presented Saint Agnes Hospital Foundation, Inc. and Sundance Research Institute, Inc. with grants to support their cardiovascular initiatives.

  • Saint Agnes Hospital Foundation, Inc. in Baltimore; $215,647: “Heart-to-Heart” aims to empower its faith-based partners to effectively reduce cardiovascular disease risk factors in communities with severe healthcare disparities.
  • Sundance Research Institute, Inc. in Wind River Indian Reservation, Wyo.; $197,952: “Honoring Your Heart on the Wind River Indian Reservation” aims to build on and expand a coordinated clinical-community health education program to increase cardiovascular health knowledge and reduce cardiovascular disease risk factors among American Indian adults and families with children.
From left to right: Kathryn Langwell, MA, President, Sundance Research Institute, Inc.; Johnnetta Davis-Joyce, Vice President, Sundance Research Institute, Inc.; Catherine Keene, Executive Director, Eastern Shoshone Tribal Health Programs; Kristie McNealy, MD, Senior Researcher, Sundance Research Institute, Inc.; Ray Parisi, Trustee, AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation; Joyce Jacobson, Executive Director, AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation; Michael Miller, MD, FACC, FAHA, Trustee, AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation; Carlos Ince, MD, Chief of Cardiology, Saint Agnes Hospital; Shannon Winakur, MD, Medical Director of Women’s Heart Center, Saint Agnes Hospital and Bonnie Phipps, President and CEO, Saint Agnes Healthcare

From left to right: Kathryn Langwell, MA, President, Sundance Research Institute, Inc.; Johnnetta Davis-Joyce, Vice President, Sundance Research Institute, Inc.; Catherine Keene, Executive Director, Eastern Shoshone Tribal Health Programs; Kristie McNealy, MD, Senior Researcher, Sundance Research Institute, Inc.; Ray Parisi, Trustee, AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation; Joyce Jacobson, Executive Director, AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation; Michael Miller, MD, FACC, FAHA, Trustee, AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation; Carlos Ince, MD, Chief of Cardiology, Saint Agnes Hospital; Shannon Winakur, MD, Medical Director of Women’s Heart Center, Saint Agnes Hospital and Bonnie Phipps, President and CEO, Saint Agnes Healthcare

Thousand Oaks, California

Thousand Oaks, Ventura County and the California Assembly declared February 21st as “Connections for Cardiovascular Health Day” as the Foundation presented a grant to the Westminster Free Clinic:

  • Westminster Free Clinic in Thousand Oaks, Calif.; $192,994: “Corazones Sanos para Mi Familia (Healthy Hearts for My Family)” aims to improve the health outcomes of low-income, uninsured Latinos suffering from or at high risk for heart disease and/or diabetes through culturally competent, patient-centered services.
From left to right: Linda Parks, Chair, Ventura County Board of Supervisors; Lisa Safaeinili, Executive Director, Westminster Free Clinic; Ann Booth-Barbarin, Trustee, AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation; Steve Kamajian, MD, Medical Director/Board President, Clinic Co-Founder, Westminster Free Clinic; Cindy Vinson, M.T., Board Member, Clinic Co-Founder, Westminster Free Clinic; Al Adam, Mayor of Thousand Oaks, CA and Jacqui Irwin, California State Assemblymember

From left to right: Linda Parks, Chair, Ventura County Board of Supervisors; Lisa Safaeinili, Executive Director, Westminster Free Clinic; Ann Booth-Barbarin, Trustee, AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation; Steve Kamajian, MD, Medical Director/Board President, Clinic Co-Founder, Westminster Free Clinic; Cindy Vinson, M.T., Board Member, Clinic Co-Founder, Westminster Free Clinic; Al Adam, Mayor of Thousand Oaks, CA and Jacqui Irwin, California State Assemblymember

Grand Rapids, Michigan

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell together proclaimed February 26th to be “Connections for Cardiovascular Health Awareness Day” in conjunction with the Foundation’s grant to Catherine’s Health Center:

  • Catherine’s Health Center in Grand Rapids, Mich.; $160,916: The “Heart Smart Connections” program aims to build on the successful “Live Heart Smart” program and improve the cardiovascular health of 2,000 low-income community residents by assisting with accessing health services including health insurance via the Affordable Care Act.
From left to right: Karen Kaashoek, Executive Director, Catherine’s Health Center; Mayor George Heartwell, City of Grand Rapids and Ann Booth-Barbarin, Secretary, AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation

From left to right: Karen Kaashoek, Executive Director, Catherine’s Health Center; Mayor George Heartwell, City of Grand Rapids and Ann Booth-Barbarin, Secretary, AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation

The full list of awardees can be found here, and click here to read about the earlier event we attended in Mississippi.

Since 2010, the Connections for Cardiovascular HealthSM program has awarded more than $17 million in grants to 43 organizations nationwide. More than 40,000 people have participated in a variety of programs of those organizations. As a result, we are seeing participants who are making healthier food choices, exercising more, reducing their body mass index, lowering their blood pressure and learning more about nutrition and how to lower their cardiovascular risk factors.

Dr. James Blasetto is the Chairman of the Board of the AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation and Vice President of US Medical Affairs, Evidence Generation at AstraZeneca. He also is a Fellow in the American College of Cardiology.

Pictured top of page, from left to right: Cindy Vinson, M.T., Board Member, Clinic Co-Founder, Westminster Free Clinic; Ann Booth-Barbarin, Trustee, AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation; Sara Green, Advocacy Development Manager, Medimmune, AstraZeneca and Lisa Safaeinili, Executive Director, Westminster Free Clinic

Spotlight on Gout: A Serious, Yet Understated Form of Arthritis

By N. Lawrence Edwards, MD, Rheumatologist and Chairman, Gout & Uric Acid Education Society

N. Lawrence Edwards, MD, Rheumatologist and Chairman, Gout & Uric Acid Education Society

N. Lawrence Edwards, MD, Rheumatologist and Chairman, Gout & Uric Acid Education Society

Gout is not a disease that gets a lot of attention. Consequently, gout is widely misunderstood and often understated by the general public – and even by those who suffer from the disease. In fact, just 10 percent of people with gout receive needed, ongoing treatment. This needs to be changed, considering the devastating consequences of untreated gout and elevated serum uric acid (SUA) levels.

Caused by an accumulation of uric acid crystals in the joints and other tissues, gout is an extremely painful and chronic form of arthritis. Affecting more than 8.3 million Americans and growing, gout is the most common type of inflammatory arthritis – even three to four times more common than Rheumatoid Arthritis, yet it gets just a fraction of the attention. Despite its growing prevalence, 70 percent of Americans don’t know that gout is a form of arthritis; three-quarters don’t know what parts of the body it affects; and half are unaware of gout’s potentially crippling consequences.

Many people may recognize the classic signs of a gout attack – sudden pain, warmth and swelling in one or more joints. Gout often begins in the big toe, but can also affect other areas including the feet, ankle, wrists, hands and elbows. The pain during a gout flare is so excruciating that many visit the emergency room for care. On a typical pain scale, most people with gout will rank their pain as a nine or a 10 – with even the slightest touch causing agony.

What many do not realize is that gout goes far beyond a flare-up. Untreated gout and elevated SUA levels can lead to permanent joint damage, destruction of tissue, deformities and even loss of normal joint use. Gout has even been connected with other serious health problems, including kidney disease, heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

Gout is a disease that requires lifelong treatment and management – not just during a flare. Proper treatment begins with an accurate diagnosis by a medical professional. Once the diagnosis is made, a plan for management can begin. For everyone, this includes lowering SUA levels to a target of less than 6 mg/dL. For the majority, this requires taking long-term uric acid-lowering medications. Everyone with gout should also take steps such as exercising regularly and avoiding foods that are high in purines – like beer, red meat and seafood – and high-fructose corn syrup.

Gout most commonly affects middle-aged men, but it can affect anyone at any time. Anyone suspecting gout should talk to their medical professional immediately. Early diagnosis and treatment can help pave the way for a healthy future.

The Gout & Uric Acid Education Society is the leading nonprofit organization for providing medically-based gout information. To learn more, visit GoutEducation.org.

Want to put your gout knowledge to the test? Visit GoutQuiz.org.

 

About N. Lawrence Edwards, MD

As Chairman of the Gout & Uric Acid Education Society, Dr. Edwards is committed to educating the public and health care community about gout and the related consequences of hyperuricemia. Dr. Edwards is also a Professor of Medicine for Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology at the University of Florida.


Each year October 12 is recognized as World Arthritis Day. It was established in 1996 by Arthritis and Rheumatism International (ARI) as an opportunity to raise awareness of issues affecting people with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases.

 

 

Mental Health America and AZ to Promote Screening and Early Intervention for Mental Illness Awareness Week

By Theresa Nguyen, LCSW, Strategic Policy Analyst, Mental Health America

Theresa Nguyen, LCSW, Strategic Policy Analyst, Mental Health America

Theresa Nguyen, LCSW, Strategic Policy Analyst, Mental Health America

When we feel a nagging pain in our chest or see a strange mole on our skin, we’re usually comfortable asking our doctor to run tests to identify potential health problems. If we have a hard time getting out of bed, feel unnaturally agitated, or just feel like “something’s not right,” we often don’t know what’s going on or who to turn to.

Many who suffer with mental illness suffer in silence. We often suffer for months or years before seeking help. We don’t know how to make sense of what we feel. We don’t know how to tell our families or friends. Most don’t know what treatment is, or where and how to get help. Unfortunately hospitalization is often the first mental health intervention for many suffering from mental illness. As a clinician, I have had many families tell me, “We didn’t realize what was going on, but looking back it’s so clear now. We wish we could have gotten help earlier.”

With cancer, heart disease, or diabetes, we usually don’t wait years to provide treatment. We have strong public health campaigns that promote education, early screening and treatment; but screening and treatment is just as essential for mental health. Identifying mental health problems early saves lives.

Healthcare professionals try to intervene for physical illnesses before they can reach stage 4, and we should have the same approach for mental illness. Treating mental illness before it reaches “stage 4” keeps people in school, helps them get and keep jobs, helps them stay connected to their family and friends, and ultimately helps people feel better. In other words, with early screening and treatment, what we’re really offering is life.

If the mental health community is serious about helping people and families in the fight against mental illness, we must promote education, early screening and treatment. Since Mental Health America launched MHAScreening.org in April 2014, over 120,000 screens have been taken by people across the US and internationally. People are looking for help and when they don’t know where to turn, many start on the internet. Online screening tools provide a private way to identify potential mental health problems, to learn more about what treatments are available, and even reach out to get help for the first time. Of those who screened and reported moderately severe to severe mental health problems, around 60% had never been diagnosed. Since diagnosis is often the first step in treatment, a majority of those who screened and need help may not be getting help. The earlier we can reach populations at risk for mental health disorders with our screening tools, the earlier they can receive the treatment they need.

MHA b4stage4 imageMental Health America (MHA) is proud to partner with AstraZeneca to act B4Stage4. At MHA, we believe in prevention for all, early identification and intervention for those at risk, integrated health and behavioral health treatment for those who need it, and recovery as a goal. Screening is an integral part of prevention, early identification and intervention.

This week is Mental Illness Awareness Week 2014. Join Mental Health America, AstraZeneca, and our other partners and affiliates in promoting early intervention for mental illness through MHAScreening.org and #B4Stage4. As a community, we must work together to shift the conversations around mental health and help people obtain hopeful and meaningful lives.

Mental Illness Awareness Week Highlights Available Resources

By Mary Giliberti, Executive Director, National Alliance on Mental Illness

Mary Giliberti, Executive Director, National Alliance on Mental Illness

Mary Giliberti, Executive Director, National Alliance on Mental Illness

Today marks the beginning of 2014’s Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW), which provides an opportunity to inspire conversations about mental health care, helping to end the silence that often surrounds mental illness and bringing help and hope to people affected by these conditions.

In 1990, the U.S. Congress established the first full week of October as MIAW in recognition of efforts by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to raise public awareness about mental illness as a significant health condition. Each year since then, mental health advocates across the country have joined with others in their communities to sponsor activities, large or small, for public education about signs and symptoms of mental illness, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and other conditions.

Today, MIAW includes the National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding (Oct. 7) and National Depression Screening Day (Oct. 9).

For many people it comes as a surprise to learn that one in four adults experience a mental health problem ever year. One in five children and teens also live with mental illness. One-half of cases of mental illness begin by the age of 14 and three-quarters by age 24, distinguishing mental illness from other chronic health conditions, which often begin later in life.

Unfortunately, there are long delays−sometimes decades−between the time symptoms first appear and when people get help. Early identification and treatment can make a difference for successful management of an illness and recovery, but only one-third of adults and less than one-half of children with mental illness receive treatment.

MIAW aims to educate the public to recognize symptoms and understand the importance of getting help early. With the right services and supports, people can and do recover. NAMI offers support to those affected by providing free education classes and support groups, which play an important role in helping individuals with mental illness, their friends and families get information and support.

Thanks to AstraZeneca’s support, NAMI also will be launching a new social media in 2015 to broaden our ability to help people affected by mental illness.

Horseshoe falls at night

Niagra Falls, lit up green for Mental Illness Awareness Week

During MIAW, people are also encouraged to wear green to help raise public awareness. Green is the traditional symbol of hope and renewal—themes which are important to NAMI’s vision of resiliency, recovery and wellness in working to improve the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness.

“Going green” can be as simple as wearing a green ribbon or green shoelaces or painting your fingernails. You might want to arrange for a landmark, such as a school or church, to be illuminated in green light at night. No matter how we bring attention to this critical issue, the goal is to initiate conversations about mental illness.

The more people know, the better they can help themselves, their families and their communities.  MIAW is a time to learn. It is a time to raise awareness. It is a time to make a difference.

Information about mental health conditions, recovery, and treatment options is available from NAMI at www.nami.org or from our HelpLine at 1-800-950-6264.

miaw-logo

Mental Health America and AZ Launch Mind Your Health Campaign

Paul Gionfriddo, MHA President and CEO

Paul Gionfriddo, President and CEO, Mental Health America

By Paul Gionfriddo, MHA President and CEO

For over a century, Mental Health America (MHA) has been a national leader in advancing mental health and I was thrilled to join this wonderful organization on May 1, 2014 as its new President and CEO. I’ve worked on mental health matters since my time in the Connecticut State legislature in the 1980s, so this is a new opportunity for me to work with old friends from around the country to build our constituency for mental health.

As a first step in that process, and in recognition of Mental Health Month in May, MHA created a new series of videos with support from AstraZeneca as part of our “Mind Your Health” campaign. The videos encourage people to use a mental health screening tool and can be seen in physicians’ offices and elsewhere around the nation. The series focuses on the four principles that guide us in our work: Prevention for all, Early identification and intervention for those at risk, Integrated health and behavioral health treatment for those who need it, and Recovery as a goal. Because our greatest challenge is often getting people to look beyond the stigma and seek medical care, the videos drive people to visit our new site, MHAScreening.org, where they can find a number of online tools to screen for mental health conditions and to get recommendations for care and support in their communities.

Thousands of online screenings have already been completed, which is a positive sign that we’re connecting with the people we need to reach to accomplish our goals.

We’re proud of our partnership with AstraZeneca and we think it will make a huge difference in the lives of so many people. After all, we all know the numbers – half of us will have a diagnosable mental health condition during our lives, and up to 6% of people live with serious mental illnesses. My son Tim is one of them. And he – now homeless on the streets of San Francisco – has had an extraordinarily difficult life because of it. So this affects me on a very personal level, too.

MHA believes that early identification and effective intervention and treatment are essential for people’s wellbeing. The “Mind Your Health” campaign is just our most recent effort to accomplish this objective, and we are very pleased to have AstraZeneca as our partner.

Click here to view the first of our videos.

About Paul Gionfriddo

Gionfriddo has held key health and public health-related leadership positions during a career spanning more than 30 years. In addition to leading nonprofit organizations in three states, he ran his own consulting business, specializing in public health, children’s health, primary care and mental health.

 

2991106 Last Updated 5/14

 

Successful Outcome on Medicare Part D Reminds Us Why Advocacy is Important

By Chuck Ingoglia, Senior Vice President of the National Council for Behavioral Health

Chuck Ingoglia, Senior Vice President, Public Policy and Practice Improvement, National Council  for Behavioral Health

Chuck Ingoglia, Senior Vice President, Public Policy and Practice Improvement, National Council for Behavioral Health

In January, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) surprised the patient and provider community when it issued a proposed rule seeking to make unprecedented changes to the successful and popular Medicare Part D drug program.   One of the most concerning of these proposed changes was the introduction of new criteria to evaluate the “drug classes of clinical concern,” most commonly referred to as the six protected classes.  These six “protected” classes of medications were identified by CMS during the implementation of the Medicare prescription drug benefit as needing special access for patients and providers, including drugs to treat mental illness, organ transplant, cancer, HIV and seizure disorders.

The proposal not only introduced new criteria, but it applied these criteria to the  protected classes and proposed removal of two classes in plan year 2015 – immunosuppressants and antidepressants – as well as removal in plan year 2016 for antipsychotics.  After hearing from patients, providers, legislators and the pharmaceutical industry, including the National Council for Behavioral Health and AstraZeneca, CMS announced on March 10th that it would abandon its recent proposal to strip mental health and immunosuppressant drugs of their protected status in Medicare Part D.

CMS’ decision comes on the heels of an overwhelming outpouring of bi-partisan support that was the result of unified and swift advocacy.  In addition to the National Council and AstraZeneca, members of Congress, the Partnership for Part D Access, and other concerned patient and provider groups submitted well over 1,000 comments to CMS opposing the changes.  This reversal demonstrates the power of various sectors working together – providers, patients and industry.

The National Council and AstraZeneca applaud CMS for its decision not to finalize the proposed changes to the protected class policy.  This change will allow millions of the most vulnerable beneficiaries to continue to confidently rely upon Medicare to provide them the drugs they need.

CMS noted it will gather additional input and reserves the right to advance changes in these areas in future years, and this possibility necessitates ongoing vigilance and willingness to continue to work together on matters of common interest.  The National Council and AstraZeneca are committed to such a partnership to preserve patient access and choice within the Part D program.

Chuck Ingoglia is Senior Vice President, Public Policy and Practice Improvement for the National Council  for Behavioral Health. There he directs the federal and state affairs function and oversees practice improvement and technical assistance programs offered to more than half a million behavioral health professionals.