September is National Recovery Month, a time to reflect on the importance of preventive services and treatment for people facing mental illness and addiction issues.
We all know the high costs of untreated addictions and mental health issues. We have seen the toll they take on our families and loved ones. In our health system, they are major drivers of poor health. Tragically, people living with serious mental illness die decades earlier from an array of other health problems. Children affected by addiction and mental health disorders are more likely to struggle in school and are less likely to graduate. And some of the highest human and financial costs are in the justice system where too many people cycle through our jails and prisons without access to treatment for behavioral health concerns.
The good news is that prevention works, treatment is effective, and people recover. Let me state that again, because it’s so important. Prevention works, treatment is effective, and people recover. The benefits of recovery are as profound and far-reaching as the examples are numerous – for our families, our communities and our state.
A study of long-term outcomes among Oregon adults who accessed publicly funded addiction treatment found that arrests declined 87 percent a year after treatment. Young people who found psychosis intervention support through the Early Access and Support Alliance stayed in school, out of jails and hospitals, and avoided disability. Oregon's Adult Mental Health Initiative is helping hundreds of people live successfully and independently in the community.
Every day people in local communities are moving toward recovery thanks to prevention and treatment services. Unfortunately, those services are not yet available to everyone who needs them. This must change. As we continue to create a coordinated care model for Medicaid, we have a vision that by focusing on what patients really need and breaking down the silos between physical and mental health care, treatment will be more available. But, more work needs to be done. Even as CCOs are up and running, too many people who don’t have coverage or access to care are slipping through the cracks.
We know that our investments in recovery pay enormous dividends in actual dollars, but also in lives saved and in hope renewed. So as we celebrate Recovery Month we want to also recognize that we have a long, long way to go and the sooner we act, the better off we all will be.