Issue 1: Early Intervention
Goal: Individuals with psychiatric illnesses will have access at the earliest possible time to recognized effective treatment, including treatment for those who are dually diagnosed with mental illness and substance abuse.
Recent research indicates that early intervention and treatment dramatically impact the course of mental illness and that many people can go on to live normal and productive lives with appropriate treatment. Early diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric illness (early intervention) may diminish the disabling nature of mental illness. Early intervention is cost effective, as people will require fewer services over the course of their lives. This humane and simple goal frequently eludes us, meaning that adults who experience mental illness often wait for accurate diagnoses. Newly diagnosed patients are frequently given pharmacological interventions that are less than ideal, as cost savings measures, since the newest and most effective drugs are expensive. This approach is "penny wise and pound foolish."
People experiencing co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse problems have historically found access to services limited and fragmented. Coordinated and concurrent treatment for persons who experience both mental illness and substance abuse problems has been lacking. Yet, recent studies have found that 75% of people experiencing psychiatric disorders have a co-occurring substance abuse problem. Researchers believe that this often begins with attempts by mentally ill people to treat the symptoms of their illness with "self medication." Addictions and chronic disease develop over time. The federal Center for Mental Health Services stresses the need for mental illness and substance abuse to be treated simultaneously--not sequentially or in parallel systems. The current division of efforts provides a dramatic disservice to both populations. Optimum treatment cannot occur unless the barriers between providers are broken down.
181. Enhance collaboration between: the Division of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities and the Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse to provide simultaneous service delivery; the Alaska Mental Health Board and Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Advisory Board; and on the local level to enhance the response to people with co-occurring disorders.
Responsible party: Division of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, Alaska Mental Health Board
182. The Alaska Mental Health Board will advocate with the Department of Health and Social Services and the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority to eliminate the barriers between delivery of simultaneous mental health and substance abuse services.
Responsible party: Alaska Mental Health Board
183. The Alaska Mental Health Board, Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, Governor's Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse and the Department of Health and Social Services will encourage cross training of mental health and substance abuse workers so that simultaneous services can be delivered.
Responsible party: Alaska Mental Health Board, Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, Governor's Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, Department of Health and Social Services
184. The Department of Health and Social Services will encourage grantees to deliver both mental health and substance abuse services and will seek more combined service providers.
185. The Department of Health and Social Services will develop internal processes to facilitate simultaneous service delivery.
186. The Department of Health and Social Services will work to ensure pooled funding for simultaneous substance abuse and mental health services.
187. Providers will be trained to treat substance abuse and mental illness simultaneously.
188. Managed care in the public and private sectors will act on the knowledge that early and appropriate interventions for mental illness and simultaneous treatment of co-occurring disorders are cost effective. Department of Health and Social Services staff will work with the state's insurance division and industry to promote these principles in private insurance.
Responsible party (actions 4-8): Department of Health and Social Services
189. Encourage greater public education, assessment, and outreach efforts to identify individuals with mental illness and encourage them to seek treatment.
Responsible party: Alaska Mental Health Board, Division of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, advocacy groups