Whole-person health: A SIM blog (05/30/2018)

Improving mental health in CO boys and men: Your call-to-action 

By Heather Grimshaw

We can do more to identify, intervene and improve mental health among boys and men in Colorado, and a new report published by the Colorado State Innovation Model (SIM) outlines action steps to do just that. Recommendations are actionable for community members, employers, coaches, health plans and health care professionals and considering that one in five people in Colorado need mental health services, we all have a role to play.

Strategies in “Raising the bar on behavioral health awareness, prevention and treatment for boys and men: A call to action” focus on recommendations for boys and men and will redefine how Coloradans talk about mental health, screen for conditions, enable appropriate interventions and expand access to the right care at the right time in the right place. It goes beyond traditional health care settings and identifies people, who can make Colorado healthier.

Examples of targeted outcomes in the report:
  • By 2028 Colorado will see a decrease in suicide rates for boys, working-age and older men.
  • By 2028 Colorado will see a decrease in prescription drug overdose deaths for boys, working-age and older men.

Implementation strategies
The focus on boys and men is appreciated by the Jefferson Center for Mental Health, one of four bidirectional health homes that is integrating physical and behavioral health with SIM funding. The team started paternal and primary child caregiver depression and anxiety screenings in January and says new fathers appreciate the interest in their health.

“After a baby is born, there is a strong focus on the mother, and we have noticed the father is often ignored,” says Megan Swenson, MA, LPC, LAC, manager of integrated care and care coordination for Jefferson Center. “It’s opened a lot of conversations and given us the opportunity to delve into the health of the family, the health of the child and the health of the father. We talk to fathers about why they are important to the health of their families.”

Shannon Tyson-Poletti, MD, assistant medical director, Jefferson Center, concurs. “This has been a passion of mine and for our team for a long time,” she says. “We focus a lot on moms and parenting with moms but we haven’t focused on parenting and mental health of the dads, which is equally important for the development of the family and child.”

The team screens all primary child caregivers for depression and anxiety, offers healthy relationship counseling for adolescent young men and women and screens all parents and primary child caregivers for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Studies have shown that high ACEs can affect a person’s physical and mental health, and possibly affect their parenting skills and the family’s health.

“Our hope with that is to prevent trauma, domestic violence, future child abuse, substance abuse and mental illness in these young people,” explains Tyson-Poletti. “Men and boys are equally important in this equation and cannot be ignored. Early intervention, rather than later intervention, leads to improved physical and mental health outcomes. We think this is a real opportunity.”

The report was crafted by the SIM population health workgroup. It’s one of seven workgroups that guide the federally funded, governor’s office initiative, which will help 25% of the state’s primary care practice sites and four community mental health centers integrate behavioral and physical health during its four-year time frame. Read the report and get involved: http://bit.ly/mental-health-call-to-action.