07-31-13-mike-nagowski.gifEvery October we see special, pink-ribbon packages of cookies, pink-ribbon T-shirts and tote bags. The stores are filled with Breast Cancer Awareness products for a disease that affects 1-out-of-8 women in their lifetime.

Yet there is no such publicity for mental health, a problem that affects a quarter of the population in a given year — and just half get treatment.

Many suffer in silence. They don’t tell their friends or coworkers. Some don’t even tell their families. So it’s no surprise that Mental Health Month comes and goes each May with little fanfare.

That’s unfortunate, because help for many can be as close as their primary care provider.

Some sufferers will struggle with their mental health issues, experiencing crisis from time to time. They don’t have many options. So they often end up in Cape Fear Valley’s nine-bed Psychiatric Emergency Department.

On any given day, at any given time, we have 17 or 18 patients for those nine beds.

That is all about to change.

Cape Fear Valley has entered into an agreement with Cumberland County and Alliance Behavioral Health, the Managed Care Organization responsible for managing mental health care and substance-abuse services reimbursed by Medicaid, as well as county and state funds.

This agreement allows Cape Fear Valley to add the missing piece to our community’s existing mental-health services: crisis intervention.

Individuals in crisis will be able to bypass the Emergency Department and go directly to the Roxie Center, 16 hours a day, seven days a week, on a walk-in basis. This service will be available in the fall after renovations to the second floor of the Roxie Center are complete.

We estimate our Crisis Intervention model will reduce our psychiatric Emergency Department volume by 20 percent in the first year and up to 40 percent in the second.

More importantly, mental-health patients in our community will finally have access to the full continuum of services — all on the campus of Cape Fear Valley Health.

Mental health may not have the dollars or publicity behind it that breast cancer has, but it is no less important.

I would like to thank our Cumberland County Board of Commissioners for entrusting us with the mental health needs of our community. I know our physicians and mental health professionals will provide the quality care they envision for our citizens.

I hope one day no one will suffer in silence from mental illness. Because help is available.

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