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A little gratitude goes a long way

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“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” – Eckhart Tolle As the holiday season begins, some people look forward to joyous celebrations, time away from work, or special moments with family and friends. For others, feelings of loneliness, desperation, or sadness can feel especially pronounced during this time of year. While many mental health concerns are best handled with the support of a professional, there are  things that can be done on an individual level or with family and social supports to improve feelings of sadness or hopelessness. Practicing gratitude can have a positive impact on your mind, body, and relationships with others. A sense of meaning, more joy, and increased…

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5 tips to help someone struggling with an eating disorder

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Eating disorders affect millions of Americans, with approximately 1 in 10 expected to develop one during their lifetime.[1] Conditions including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating affect people of all ages, races, body types, and genders.[2] Anyone can develop an eating disorder at any time in life. In many cases, it begins during adolescence or young adulthood, with the average age of onset between 12-25.[3] During the COVID pandemic, a spike in reported eating disorders indicated a more than 70% increase in call volume to national hotlines.[4] With eating disorders ranking as the top fatal mental illness in young people, it’s a problem we can’t afford to ignore.[5] The statistics are alarming. In a study following adolescent girls until…

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Equity leadership summit brings passion – and policy recommendations – to the table

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“I see a future where everyone who needs mental health care gets it. We must end the separate and unequal treatment of mental health and addiction and ensure each of us is able to achieve a full, meaningful life.” ~ The Honorable Patrick J. Kennedy, Former U.S. Representative and Founder of the Kennedy Forum. Recently, 988 – the new nationwide number for suicide prevention and crisis care – went live. The Suicide and Crisis Lifeline has the opportunity to change the game when it comes to accessing mental health services. It represents an entry point to treatment for all levels of behavioral health care and can be used for much more than suicide prevention. 988 can be used anytime someone…

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Beacon and Kennedy-Satcher: advancing behavioral health equity

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Coming in July, the first nationwide crisis hotline for behavioral health emergencies will go live. The equivalent of 911 for mental health, 988 marks a historic milestone in improving access to life-saving crisis services. While 988 represents a crucial step forward to address the current mental health crisis in the United States, much work remains to ensure that the crisis response system is equitable – particularly for communities that have historically experienced great inequity and trauma. Data indicates that people who identify as LGBTQIA+; black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC); rural communities; immigrants, refugees, and non-English speaking people; people living with disabilities; older adults; people experiencing homelessness or housing instability; formerly incarcerated or justice-involved populations; survivors of trauma; and…

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Improving outcomes for people with opioid use disorder

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In May 2022, the CDC estimated that more than 107,600 Americans died from drug overdoses from December 2020 to December 2021, setting another tragic record in the nation’s SUD crisis. More than 75% of those deaths were from opioids (75,673).[1] With alarming statistics like these, the need for effective treatment options for opioid use disorder (OUD) is urgent. The use of medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) is currently the most effective treatment for OUD.[2] Although there are three FDA-approved medications (methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone), MOUD is not utilized as much as it could be. In acute care settings many inpatient units still rely on traditional withdrawal management protocols, which are associated with high risk for relapse, accidental overdose, and/or…

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Increasing access to behavioral health care through public / private partnerships

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By Wendy Martinez Farmer, Beacon Crisis Leader Nine years ago, I was driving home during Atlanta rush hour concerned I would not make it in time to pick up my 2-year-old from daycare. Traffic was heavy and I was already running late after handling a crisis at work. Suddenly, I felt crushing chest pain that radiated down both arms and up into my jaw. Instinctively I pulled off the highway, turned into a convenience store, bought an aspirin, chewed it and looked at the store clerk and said, “Please call 911. I am having a heart attack.” Within seconds, bystanders who also seemed to know what to do stepped in to keep me calm. One of them even contacted my…

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Improving health equity one algorithm at a time

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Data and algorithms are frequently used in the healthcare industry to identify populations that may benefit from specialty care management. Data driven programs that utilize algorithms can improve disease management, health outcomes and reduce the cost of care. They also have the potential to remove bias from human decision making when it comes to accessing care.  But what happens when the algorithm itself is biased? Recent research has shown that algorithms in healthcare[1] and other fields[2] can show bias against certain populations due to systemic racism that is reflected in the data used to construct these computer-based calculations. In healthcare for example, data on cost and utilization of care is often relied upon as an indicator of problem severity. However,…

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Reducing mental health stigma through community collaboration

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With 988 set to launch this summer, many states are working hard to prepare. Although each state has its own unique array of providers and services, coordinating them into an effective crisis system capable of serving all people can be daunting. In order for a successful 988 launch, each state will need to implement a coordinated crisis response system should the contact with the 988 center not be sufficient to meet the immediate need. Investment in mobile crisis response teams and a continuum of facility-based crisis programs can enhance and bolster existing programs and services to provide timely, appropriate care. These include psychiatric urgent care facilities, 23-hour crisis stabilization programs, peer respite centers, crisis residential programs, partial hospitalization programs and…

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Overcoming stigma for better mental health

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Although attitudes are slowly changing, stigma continues to create a significant barrier to mental health treatment. According to Mental Health America, more than half of the people who reported experiencing mental health problems in 2020 did not receive treatment.[1] Additionally, the BCBS Health Index indicated that major depression and anxiety are underdiagnosed at rates of 32-40 percent less in Black and Hispanic/Latino communities.[2] While the reasons for this may vary, the American Psychological Association says that lower diagnosis rates are likely driven by lack of provider understanding of cultural differences, stigma and barriers to getting care such as socioeconomic disparities and provider bias / inequality of care. In the Black community in particular, stigma can be pervasive. Research has shown…

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Increasing behavioral health equity in Massachusetts: MBHP will award $250K in grant funding

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The Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership (MBHP) is a Beacon Health Options company and a leader in helping people lead healthier lives through access to critical services. As part of its commitment to behavioral health equity and access, MBHP recently awarded more than $130K in grants to five organizations from across the Commonwealth to increase access to and engagement in behavioral healthcare for diverse populations. This funding is the first round of a grant cycle that will ultimately distribute $250K in grants focused on this pressing issue. MBHP received more than 100 submissions from across Massachusetts. After a comprehensive review and decision-making process, the following organizations were awarded grant funding: Aspire Health Alliance Community Health Network Area 17 The Learning Center…

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