Op-Ed: The Need for Effective Measures to Treat Mental Illness
By TIM ADAMS
There is an urgent need for more dynamic and effective measures to care for the growing number of Americans with serious mental illness - in Middle Tennessee and across the nation. It is estimated that one in six adults, or more than 40 million Americans, suffer from a behavioral health disorder each year, and 75 percent of these individuals go without treatment. Those with serious mental illness are vulnerable to chronic medical conditions, which can reduce their life expectancy by 25 years.
Serious mental illness is estimated to cost the federal government more than $193 billion annually, and over the last 20 years, the rates of violence, suicide, homelessness victimization and incarceration among the mentally ill have continued to rise. Behavioral health needs in Middle Tennessee continue to increase in all sites of care ... and while already extraordinary, projections for the future indicate demand will only increase. There are currently 19,900 behavioral health discharges annually in the Middle Tennessee region and the market size has grown by more than 25 percent since 2011.
We cannot have a compassionate and just society if we are not striving to provide the best care possible to the mentally ill and those suffering from addiction. Saint Thomas Health and Ascension are committed to addressing behavioral health needs across the country as part of our strategic direction. Recognizing the impact of lacking behavioral health resources in Middle Tennessee, Saint Thomas sought to develop a joint venture partnership with Acadia Healthcare - an international, leading behavioral health provider with almost 600 behavioral health facilities in the U.S., U.K. and Puerto Rico headquartered in Franklin. Saint Thomas Health will develop a freestanding 76-bed hospital at Metro Center.
As part of this strategy, Saint Thomas Health has developed a plan to renovate and backfill the existing geriatric psychiatric unit and convert to a critical care unit needed to support the rising acuity levels at Saint Thomas West. These efforts result in Saint Thomas Health's $37 million investment into the behavioral health needs of the communities we are privileged to serve.
Our initiative to expand behavioral health resources in our community is consistent with our mission and efforts to serve all - mind, body and spirit. These efforts will meet a tremendous community need by filling a care gap in our community and is part of our strategic direction.
We recognize that the need for behavioral health solutions in our community and across the nation is urgent. This new facility will expand access to behavioral health services with a focus on both quality of care and providing patients with a distinct, personalized experience - all part of our mission. Saint Thomas Health and Ascension is excited to expand behavioral health access in Middle Tennessee because it is the right thing to do for the individuals we serve.
Tim Adams is president and CEO of Saint Thomas Health and ministry market executive for Ascension Tennessee. He presides over Saint Thomas Health's nine inpatient facilities in Middle Tennessee, in addition to a network of physician practices, joint ventures and community partnerships. For more information, go to sthealth.com.