State Officials Detail ‘Intertwined’ Issues of Mental Health, Substance Use

Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) Director LeeAnne Cornyn and RecoveryOhio Director Aimee Shadwick noted May’s status as “Mental Health Awareness Month” as the month closes, discussing the importance of addressing mental health and substance use with reporters in a virtual press conference Thursday.

Vanderhoff opened by referencing the awareness month designation and discussed actions the DeWine administration has taken to improve access to mental health treatment. “Mental health is health,” he said, and it needs to be part of holistic approaches to health.

He further shared statistics on behavioral health in Ohio and nationally, saying rates of depression for both youth and adults have increased in recent years. The most recent CDC statistics from 2020 showed 22 percent of Ohioans age 18 or older said they had been diagnosed with depression in their lifetime. Additional results from Ohio youth surveys in 2021 found more than 42 percent of high schoolers had felt “sad or hopeless nearly every day for at least two weeks in the prior year.” The rate for middle schoolers was around 37 percent as well.

Statistics can lag a few years, but Vanderhoff said the rates have been rising throughout the past decade and so are not a result of the pandemic alone.

There have also been a higher number of suicides in Ohio since 2017, with an all-time high in 2018. While numbers have “leveled off” since then, the trend line in recent years has not shown the steady decline that he would like to see.

Substance use disorder is “intertwined” with mental health, Vanderhoff continued, and the number of unintentional overdose deaths in Ohio increased from 2,110 in 2013 to 5,174 in 2021. There was a decrease in 2022 to 4,915 and early data for 2023 is also “promising.” There are preliminary indications that may be around 4,500, but that is still more than twice the 2013 figure. Those numbers reflected the state’s 2022 overdose report. (See The Hannah Report, 12/18/23.)

Cornyn explained how the 988 crisis line has been established as a “free, confidential service” available to all Ohioans 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There are 19 call centers, and people who call 988 will be connected to a trained professional working within the state in approximately 25 seconds. It also has text and online chat options. In 2023, there were more than 163,000 contacts across calls, texts and online chats.

Her goal is for 988 to be as well known to Ohioans as 911, with Cornyn stressing this program is saving lives. She also discussed how demand for treatment has increased since 2020 and attributed that in part to efforts to reduce stigma around seeking mental health help. The DeWine administration has worked to expand availability and workforce in the behavioral health space, Cornyn continued.

The three were joined by Ariana Hoet, executive clinical director of The Kids Mental Health Foundation and a pediatric psychologist with Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She discussed pre-pandemic trends on mental health and how the pandemic further exacerbated them while also affecting substance use and eating disorders. This led to the U.S. surgeon general declaring a public health crisis on children’s mental health. Hoet identified loneliness and the effects of social media as trends for youth and she recommended adults keep their children engaged during the summer.

Vanderhoff further offered summer outdoor safety tips regarding ticks and mosquitos. Those include use of registered repellents and emptying any standing water that attracts mosquitos and avoiding areas with high grass or leaf litter and wearing light-colored clothes. Sun exposure can also be an issue, especially for infants under six months old who should not have sunscreen applied since it can lead to a rash.

Shadwick talked about how substance use and mental illness can be concurrent issues, with substance use at times being a cause or result of mental health challenges, and so “integrated” care is needed.

She also detailed DeWine administration efforts, including harm reduction, expanded treatment services and work to increase education for communities about addiction. RecoveryOhio’s website has information on an upcoming training event on Monday, June 24 for that, Shadwick noted.

Asked about an update on the Governor’s Work Group on Competency Restoration and Diversion, Cornyn said around half of the scheduled meetings have been held and they are gathering “things that we have heard.” That has included “a strong focus on the role of providing treatment within our jails, opportunities for competency restoration within our jails and the role of the judicial system in supporting that work.”

She anticipated further discussions will be held, including on best practices from other states, and she hopes there will be a final report by the end of the summer.

Story originally published in The Hannah Report on May 30, 2024.  Copyright 2024 Hannah News Service, Inc.

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Spectrum New Beginnings is actively working to address these concerns in under-served communities throughout Greater Dayton. Along with exercise, restorative peer support circles, prayer and meditation, Spectrum New Beginnings teaches many repetition practices that enhance EQ:

  • nature immersions
  • gratitude
  • breathwork
  • mindfulness, mindful movement, & embodiment
  • compassion & empathy
  • teamwork & healthy bonding with others
  • relaxation
  • sound/vibration/frequency healing

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