New Era for the Mentally Ill

October 29, 2013 § Leave a comment

Commonwealth Care Alliance’s chief executive officer, Dr. Robert J. Master wrote an op-ed that was recently featured on The Boston Globe’s Podium:

Massachusetts is leading the way on an effort to redress one of the major health inequities we face as a society – caring for the severely disabled and mentally ill.

There are about 11,000 adults in Massachusetts with serious mental illness such as Schizophrenia and Bipolar illness who are clients of our State Department of Mental Health (DMH) and are eligible for Medicare and Medicaid but have lacked the care they deserve. The consequences for those with serious mental illness have been truly catastrophic.

While the general population of the United States has enjoyed steadily increasing life expectancy for the past two decades, those with severe mental illness have actually experienced a decline in theirs. According to Steve Bartels MD, professor of health service research at Dartmouth Medical School, the average life expectancy for individuals with serious mental illness is now 53 years, a decline of 5 years since 1991. Unlike most health status indicators, this rate of premature death is the same in Massachusetts as it is in Louisiana, with very little regional variation.

In the past, the most common causes of premature death for those with serious mental illness were suicide or accidents. Today it is cardiovascular disease and diabetes. We certainly know how to treat diabetes and how to prevent or delay the adverse consequence of cardiovascular illness. So why is this happening?

Click here to read Dr. Master’s full op-ed:


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