Mental and Behavioral Health Awareness

January 20, 2020
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Arizona treatment facilities are making mental and behavioral health care more accessible than ever before thanks to inclusive programs & partnerships.

What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, more unashamed conversation,” said actress and mental health activist Glenn Close. Like many of us, she was made aware of mental illness through someone close to her – her sister, Jessie, who has bipolar disorder.

Jessie is not alone – one in five U.S. adults experiences mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and 17 percent of youth (ages 6-17) experiences a mental health disorder. In an age of constant communication and digital “noise,” increasingly fractious political and social structures, and rampant disconnection and isolation, it’s only getting worse. “Depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy $1 trillion each year in lost productivity,” according to NAMI literature.

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There is good news: We’re talking about it more. And, after years of effort from mental health professionals, advocates and high-profile victims like Anthony Bourdain, the stigma is dissolving and we are addressing the issues.

“I’ve been in the business now for about 15, 20 years, and throughout my time I have seen addiction less stigmatized,” says Jaime W. Vinck, group CEO of Sierra Tucson, a residential treatment center in Southern Arizona. “But now I believe that mental health is becoming less stigmatized. 60 percent of the patients that we have here are here working on depression, trauma, anxiety – there is no substance abuse. And I don’t believe that would have been the case five years ago. In fact, I know it isn’t. Folks are more open now, saying, ‘Hey, I struggle with suicidal ideation.’ ‘Hey, my trauma is getting in the way of my quality of life.’ And they’re raising their hands and coming to treatment. Mental health is being less stigmatized.”

The next obstacle is access. In this guide, we explore two pivotal organizations that are charting the next frontier in mental health treatment: making mental health care more accessible to more populations than ever before.

Sierra Tucson

As the Southwest’s premier residential treatment facility for the past 36 years, Sierra Tucson has been a thought leader in addiction treatment since the industry’s inception.

“There was a time when Sierra Tucson was known for being the rehab of the rich and famous, and a very private facility where folks could go and recover from their substance-use disorders,” says group CEO Jaime W. Vinck. “While that is still true – we still do a great job with high-profile people that require anonymity – we have expanded access to care.” In the five years that Vinck has been with the company, “we have doubled our capacity… and now 70 percent of our residents are here utilizing their insurance in full or in part.”

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Sierra Tucson works with major insurance payers and is in network with TRICARE and TriWest Healthcare Alliance to serve veterans. Additionally, it has expanded its scope to address mental health issues, not just substance abuse.

In 2019, Sierra Tucson underwent a 30,000-square-foot expansion project. Now it is home to Copper Sky, which houses a 44-bed behavioral health inpatient program and the center’s intensive outpatient services. “This is the first time in Sierra Tucson’s history that we have offered outpatient services here on campus,” Vinck says. “We model a college campus. Our residents are busy from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m., and everyone isn’t ready for that – they need more of a small environment. So in Copper Sky, we have The Crossing, and that is preparing people for residential” treatment with detox and mental health stabilization.

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Another new program is The Chrysalis, which is “designed to hold the space between acute stabilization and residential, and those are people that need a smaller, more confined, wraparound program,” Vinck says. “Perhaps they had a recent suicide attempt. Perhaps they are physically deconditioned from years of depression or alcohol abuse… They can come in and have more individualized services.” They have also treated victims of sex trafficking and complex developmental childhood trauma. “And it’s working,” she says.

In addition to cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, EMDR and other evidence-based treatment modalities, Sierra Tucson offers specialized care through a number of programs. Red, White, and Blue groups are helmed by a U.S. Navy veteran and are tailored for veterans and first responders dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. Equine psychotherapy helps reach individuals through the power of animal connection. Voice of Legacy provides a healing space for survivors of suicide, and was established by two therapists who lost their own fathers to the tragic epidemic. Connect 365 provides patients with an app designed to model the treatment experience, and graduates of the program have access to certified recovery coaches for a year after their inpatient treatment concludes.

“We encourage everyone to find their miracle,” Vinck says. “That’s our slogan: Expect a miracle. And we will not give up until we find someone’s miracle – or help them find it.”

Haven Behavioral Hospital of Phoenix

It’s one thing to proclaim your support of inclusive movements and pioneering protocols. It’s another to put that support into practice, as Haven Behavioral Hospital of Phoenix is doing.

“Diversity and inclusion are huge focuses for us at our hospitals,” says CEO Nichol Porter. “We do a lot of HIV care, which other hospitals have as exclusionary criteria. We’re an LGBTQ-inclusive facility, meaning that we have policies and procedures that protect our LGBTQ patients.” What does that look like in practice? “Room assignments are done by your identified gender, not by your sex, our bathrooms are inclusive and our treatment approaches are inclusive of all family types.”

Most impressive is Haven Behavioral Hospital of Phoenix’s 2020 designation by the Human Rights Campaign, the United States’ largest civil rights organization dedicated to achieving full equality for LGBTQ+ people. “It’s a rigorous process. It really looks at your health insurance offerings and how those impact LGBTQ employees: ensuring you have partner benefits, ensuring gender transition is covered and all of the associated procedures that may or may not be going along with one’s gender transition,” Porter says. “But then it also looks at your policies for community engagement. Is your company really inclusive in the community?” Even corporate leadership is scrutinized for their involvement, which is where most companies lack, Porter says. “We’re really blessed to have an active corporate leadership team that is really passionate about serving LGBTQ people’s rights and health care.”

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Most impressive is Haven Behavioral Hospital of Phoenix’s 2020 designation by the Human Rights Campaign, the United States’ largest civil rights organization dedicated to achieving full equality for LGBTQ+ people. “It’s a rigorous process. It really looks at your health insurance offerings and how those impact LGBTQ employees: ensuring you have partner benefits, ensuring gender transition is covered and all of the associated procedures that may or may not be going along with one’s gender transition,” Porter says. “But then it also looks at your policies for community engagement. Is your company really inclusive in the community?” Even corporate leadership is scrutinized for their involvement, which is where most companies lack, Porter says. “We’re really blessed to have an active corporate leadership team that is really passionate about serving LGBTQ people’s rights and health care.”

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The psychiatric hospital – which provides inpatient care, chemical dependency rehabilitation and court-ordered treatment – has expanded access to other underserved communities as well. “Like persons with adult autism and intellectual disability,” Porter says. “Often those folks also suffer psychiatric diagnoses, and it’s very difficult to treat them and be able to identify what’s coming from psych an what’s coming from a developmental disorder. We have really astute physicians who are able to differentiate those issues and help the person be stable and go back into their home and not be displaced in the community.”

Arizona has provided another access opportunity for the Nashville, Tennessee-based company: indigenous populations. “Arizona has a large Native population, and our staff are really well-trained and have a heightened awareness of the needs of that community. We do a lot of extra little things to be able to serve them best.” Ongoing trainings on the nuances of each tribe, partnerships with Mercy Care and AHCCCS providers, community visits and after-hours appointments make it easier for people traveling from tribal communities. “[We] really approach the patient’s care from the family view, which is how most Native people address health care,” Porter says. “The way that they look at mental health is very spiritual, and we look at it very medical in the Western world. So [we prioritize] just adjusting to meet those spiritual needs as well as the mental health needs.”

Porter’s particularly proud of the Phoenix hospital’s treatment of pregnant women addicted to alcohol or opiates, spearheaded by Dr. Rosekamal McKinney. Few hospitals provide this care because of the legal risk. “For me, it’s probably the most exciting thing I’ve done in my career,” Porter says. “It’s unusual, but it makes it to where we can do more for our community.” That’s the goal, after all.

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