New Mexico Implements Efforts to Improve Mental Illness

July 02, 2015|11:58 a.m.| Jane Esworthy

Roughly 43.7 million adults in the United States, or 18.6 percent, experience any mental illness, including depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and addictive behaviors, in a given year. Additionally, mental illness among children in the United States is on the rise and currently affects nearly 20 percent of children aged 3 to 17.

Of New Mexico’s more than 2 million residents, close to 72,000 adults live with serious mental illness and approximately 22,000 children live with serious mental health conditions. The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) recently released its 2015 New Mexico Regional Mental Health Reports, which include 17 county-level mental health indicators. Report data show that 20 percent of New Mexico high school students had purposely injured themselves (such as by cutting or burning) in the past year, an action associated with mental illness and suicide.

"One in five New Mexicans experiences a mental illness each year,” says NMDOH Secretary Retta Ward. “People with mental illness are more likely to attempt suicide, and are also more likely to experience physical illness, poverty, and being victims of violence. Improving mental health will also improve physical health."

To help combat mental illness in the state, NMDOH and the New Mexico Human Services Department (HSD) are working together to spread awareness about the issue and integrate health services to better treat patients.

Education and Training

NMDOH’s Office of School and Adolescent Health provides training and funding for 53 school-based health clinics that provide both primary and behavioral health services for students. The At-Risk for Educators training program is a free, one-hour online course designed to prepare high school and middle school teachers and staff to recognize the common indicators of psychological distress, approach at-risk students, and refer them to appropriate school support services. Additionally, the state, in collaboration with the New Mexico Suicide Prevention Coalition and New Mexico Suicide Intervention Project, provides trainings on suicide prevention and intervention.

Health Service Integration

HSD has modernized the state’s Medicaid system by integrating physical and behavioral health services in the Centennial Care program, which will help treat individuals more holistically. The state has seen an 84 percent increase in the number of individuals receiving behavioral health services throughout the state in just the last year alone, compared to 30.4 percent the previous year.
"We’re continuing to work each day to help improve the behavioral health and basic quality of life for the most vulnerable New Mexicans," says HSD Secretary Brent Earnest. "We are working toward this goal with an integrated Medicaid system, which delivers the right treatment, at the right time, in the right setting. And the increase in patients served shows that we are making important progress."

To learn more about the work that the New Mexico Department of Health is doing to address mental health issues read this press release or visit the state’s mental health web page.