Mental health clinic helping patients quit smoking

Cadillac News, By Antonio Coleman, August 27, 2014

CADILLAC — Smokers with mental illness spend about one-quarter of their total income on cigarettes, but Northern Lakes Community Mental Health is helping patients save money by staying tobacco free.

The mental health agency is working on a tobacco cessation project not only so it can become a tobacco-free campus but also to promote tobacco-free living among people with a mental illness. The primary goal of the 12-month project is to train mental health professionals to better screen clients for tobacco use and to help those with mental illnesses to stop using tobacco.

Northern Lakes Community Mental Health reports that over 40 percent of people with a mental illness use tobacco, and 70 percent of those tobacco users want to quit.

Deb Freed, public education specialist with Northern Lakes Community Mental Health, said the organization will assist patients in becoming tobacco free by developing a new policy that institutes the five As – ask, advise, assess, assist and arrange —  into their protocols and medical records.

“A lot of research has come out that people with mental illness die 25 years younger than people in the general population, and a lot of that is due to preventable illnesses,” Freed said.

People with mental and substance abuse disorders smoke 44.3 percent of all the cigarettes in the United States, and quitting tobacco may decrease the amount of psychiatric medications needed, according to information collected by the the mental health organization.

The tobacco cessation project is supported by an American Lung Association “Expanding Smokefree Communities” Community Transformation Grant through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Northern Lakes is one of only five grant sites in the country.

Freed said Northern Lakes has plans to become a tobacco-free campus by Sept. 15. She said this will include electronic cigarettes as well as smoking within vehicles in the parking lot. She said Northern Lakes hopes the new policy will help it extend its goal of creating a healthier environment for staff members and patients.

On Aug. 28, Bill Blatt, director of tobacco programs, will be at the Northern Lakes Community Mental Health Cadillac office from 10 to 11 a.m. to review the implementation of the policy and to provide professional expertise. So far, Freed said, feedback from patients and staff members has been positive.

“We hope the grant encourages other mental health clinics to move in this direction,” Freed said. “It’s helping us give people safer and healthier lives.”