By Richard Jones MA, MBA: CEO/COO Faces and Voices of Recovery (FAVOR) Greenville
Behavioral health is a broad discipline that includes both mental health and substance use disorders. It is a term used by healthcare organizations, insurance companies, government agencies and regulatory bodies, but not by most mental health organizations. It is used even less frequently by substance use disorder providers.
This is a very unusual and troubling reality when you consider that about half of those with substance use disorders will also have a mental health diagnosis at some point in their life (National Institute of Health) and that substance use disorders is included alongside all other mental health diagnoses by The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illness.
Fortunately, the Southeastern Symposium on Mental Health breaks out of these artificial constraints by bringing together a diverse group of collaborators that represent a wide variety of perspectives and both sides of the behavioral health fence.
As a person in long term recovery from an Opioid Use Disorder, and as the CEO of FAVOR Greenville, I am thrilled that recovery from substance use disorder is celebrated at a mental health symposium. FAVOR Greenville is honored to represent families and individuals impacted by substance use disorder at this year’s symposium.
We find ourselves in uncharted territory where substance use disorders are concerned. The term “opioid epidemic” is more accurately an overdose epidemic. If you include suicide and deaths via chronic alcohol use, annual death rates climb to over 160,000. These outcomes represent the highest number of preventable “behavioral health deaths” ever recorded by the Center for Disease Control. Overdoses, naturally, garner most of the attention. It’s very hard to reconcile the exponential increase in fatalities, and it’s easy to see why this has been the focus of our country.
Overdose deaths and opioid use disorders (OUDs) have increased at an alarming rate in the past decade with tragic consequences nationwide. South Carolina has been particularly impacted by the opioid crisis and ranks in the CDC’s highest quartile for opioid prescriptions per person. Across the state, admissions for treatment for opioid use have tripled in the past 10 years. Greenville County is, unfortunately, near the top of the list in terms of overdose deaths second only to Charleston County.
There are many initiatives underway to address this problem head on like increased access to treatment services, medications, and innovative emergency department programs. Prevention and education in schools is also on the agenda, as well as early intervention.
At FAVOR Greenville we view events such as the Southeastern Symposium on Mental Health as an additional component for ending this overdose crisis because community awareness, collaboration, and advocacy are important. Fragmented systems where people do not work together fuel the crisis. Addiction thrives in the shadow of stigma and shame.
The Symposium’s focus on reducing stigma and discrimination and informing public policy is a key aspect of changing outcomes. We cannot build enough rehabs, open enough recovery centers, or hire enough counselors to end the destruction. We need the entire community engaged in this fight.
Together we recover, and recovering individuals and families thrive in supportive communities. FAVOR Greenville is grateful to the Symposium supporters and Prisma Health’s leadership in this process, and we are proud to be part of the Executive Committee.
Find out more information or join us by registering at www.sesmh.org.