Arizona citizens with a serious mental illness have a life expectancy that’s 30 years less than the general population.  These folks don’t die early because of their mental illness; rather, they die from preventable physical health conditions like obesity, smoking, lung disease, stroke and heart disease.  That’s why the Department is partnering with the Milbank Foundation to sponsor a day- long seminar focusing on how we can further develop a more integrated system of care to help treat folks with a mental illness or substance abuse disorder.  As community health centers continue to expand over the coming years, we’ll have a unique opportunity to develop an integrated model of care in Arizona.  Our goal is to make it so folks can be treated for chronic disabling conditions, both physical and mental, at a person-centered health home, with providers who understand both issues and communicate with each other for the best possible outcomes.

Integration will be a long but important road.  One of our initial steps will be to help the key players, from behavioral health providers, Regional Behavioral Health Authorities, community health centers and our licensing management team to learn about current integrated models in Arizona and about models that other states have used to better serve this population.  We’ll be coordinating a forum in January in conjunction with the Foundation to help grease the wheels and move forward.  We’ll have more details about this as we get closer to the January seminar.