Father shares his son’s story to help prevent other Kentucky youth from committing suicide

Insider Louisville LogoWhen Steve Ulrich talks to high school students about suicide, he comes armed with some frightening statistics.

For example, many don’t know that 1 in 10 students have made a suicide plan.

That number, along with many others he shares, seems unreal. But then he tells the story of a senior at Manual High, an all-star football player, who ended his life just a year ago.

“We talk about suicide after the fact; in reality, it’s a mental health issue,” he says in a Passport-sponsored article on Insider Louisville. “With depression, things are going on in our mental health world that we’re not addressing.”

Ulrich has been committed to providing information about suicide prevention since his 20-year-old son Nathan lost his life to suicide in 2002.

For more information, please click here to read the article, or you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or go online to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.


Passport co-sponsors Charla Young’s Power Up Summit in Louisville on November 12

power up graphicPassport Health Plan is proud to co-sponsor the Power to Exhale movement’s Power Up Summit on Saturday, Nov. 12, at Canaan Christian Fellowship Center in Louisville.

The Power to Exhale movement was created by Charla Young, an author, blogger, motivational speaker, internet radio show host, and host of an empowerment reality television show. Power to Exhale exists to establish a community of love, support and positivity for all women of all ages, all races and all financial and socio-economic backgrounds, according to its Facebook page.

The event, which will run from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m., will follow the theme of “Why Not Now?” and focus on different ways that attendees can “Power Up” their health, relationships, finances and more so that they can impact their communities in a powerful way and realize their full potential.

Along with the speakers, free health screenings, power breaks, and discussions about topics including mental health, depression, relationships, finances, power, purpose and more, the American Heart Association will also be on hand to provide a “Have Faith in Heart” blood pressure screening and help educate attendees on how to have a healthy heart.

Cost of the event is $15 in advance or $20 at the door, and includes a special T-shirt and lunch. For more information or to buy a ticket, please click here.


Passport aims to improve behavioral health among Kentucky’s Medicaid population

Passport logoApproximately 147,000 adults in Kentucky live with severe mental illness, many of whom are Medicaid beneficiaries. That’s why Passport is taking steps to ensure that some of the state’s most vulnerable residents have access to behavioral health services while reducing the financial cost for taxpayers.

“Behavioral health – which includes mental health and substance use disorders – is just as important as physical health,” said Elizabeth W. McKune, Ed.D., Passport’s Director of Behavioral Health. “Poor behavioral health is often the result of poor physical health, and vice versa. Medicaid patients across Kentucky must have access to quality behavioral health care in order to improve overall health outcomes and control health care costs.”

Passport’s statewide provider network includes more than 2,100 behavioral health specialists (as of June 13, 2016) who are committed to delivering timely, high-quality, clinically appropriate behavioral health services to Medicaid patients. Behavioral health providers have access to online and in-person resources and training seminars to help improve the delivery of care.

Passport also offers a behavioral health hotline, available 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, to assist members in crisis and emergency situations, help them find local behavioral health providers, and get them connected to additional services or resources they may need. Other behavioral health services available for Passport’s members include medication management, substance use disorder treatment, outpatient services such as counseling, and even inpatient treatment when providers and patients feel that outpatient treatment is insufficient.

“From providers and insurers to patients and nonprofits, many in the Commonwealth have a vested interest in improving health, including behavioral health,” said Dr. McKune. “This is a statewide effort that requires all hands on deck.”

To read more, please click here.


Study takes closer look at teens’ mental health, and what parents can do to help

Insider Louisville LogoA recent survey published by Kosair Children’s Hospital showed that 1 in 4 parents is concerned about their children’s mental health. In part, that’s because today’s youth are dealing not just with traditional conflicts such as peer pressure, hormones and puberty, but also with the pressures that come from social media and the availability of information on the internet.

Dr. Kenneth Pearson, a pediatrician with Norton HealthCare, said in a Passport-sponsored article on Insider Louisville that he often sees children who are bored with life and hopeless. He adds that bullying that takes place online is a difficult thing for a young person to deal with.

“If those kids have a parent without coping skills, then the teen has no one to learn from,” said Dr. Pearson. “And social media plays a role. Social media is making kids less able to interact face-to-face and express their feelings, and pick up body language. Posting vs. in-person interaction is a less effective communication.”

The survey also revealed that 48.9 percent of middle school students reported being bullied at school. And among high school students, 1 in 4 reported feeling sad or hopeless.


CDC offers tips for mental health care professionals to help their patients quit smoking

CDC imageAs part of its “Tips From Former Smokers” campaign, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed a set of resources for mental health professionals to help their patients fight tobacco use and quit smoking.

Studies show that people with mental health conditions are more likely to smoke than those who don’t, according to the CDC website. They suggest that primary care providers (PCPs) and mental health care providers should routinely screen patients for tobacco use and offer evidence-based smoking cessation treatments.

To help them with these conversations, the CDC has provided a set of documents and resources to help explain how mental health care professionals can get involved and support their patients, offers suggestions about how to conduct a brief tobacco intervention, shares important reasons to quit smoking, and more. These are available online by clicking here.


Task Force report lists ‘high priority’ areas for research on women’s health

women healthThe U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has released its “Fifth Annual Report to Congress on High-Priority Evidence Gaps for Clinical Preventive Services,” focusing on five “high priority” women’s health areas for evidence-based research.

The Task Force says that research in five areas “would generate much-needed evidence for important new recommendations to improve the health and health care of women in the United States.” Those five areas are:

  1. Screening for Intimate Partner Violence, Illicit Drug Use, and Mental Health Conditions
  2. Screening for Thyroid Dysfunction
  3. Screening for Vitamin D Deficiency, Vitamin D and Calcium Supplementation to Prevent Fractures, and Screening for Osteoporosis
  4. Screening for Cancer
  5. Implementing Clinical Preventive Services

“While women have traditionally enjoyed longer life expectancy and better health compared with men, this may be changing for the worse,” according to the report. “Between 1992 and 2006, 42.8 percent of U.S. counties had increased mortality rates among women compared with only 3.2 percent among men. These increases were more common among non-Hispanic white women with less education living in the South and West.”

According to its website (uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org), USPSTF is an independent, volunteer panel of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine. The Task Force works to improve the health of all Americans by making evidence-based recommendations about clinical preventive services and health promotion. The Task Force comprehensively assesses evidence and makes recommendations about the effectiveness of screening tests, counseling about healthful behaviors, and preventive medications for infants, children, adolescents, adults, older adults, and pregnant women.

For more information about the report, please click here.


Study Shows That Fewer Teens are Smoking, Drinking, and Abusing Drugs

According to a new report from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the percentage of people ages 12 to 17 who smoke, drink, or abuse certain drugs is falling.

Results from The 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health show that the rate at which teens age 12-17 said they drank alcohol over the prior month fell from 17.6 percent in 2002 to 11.5 percent by 2014, while the rate of those who said they abused prescription narcotic painkillers such as OxyContin and Vicodin dropped from 3.2 percent in 2002 to 1.9 percent in 2014.

“The data released (Thursday) show some signs of progress,” Michael Botticelli, the White House’s Director of National Drug Control Policy, said in a SAMHSA news release. “However, we still have significant challenges to address.”

To read a report about this study from U.S. News and World Report, click here. To learn more about helping teens avoid substance abuse, go online to the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse website at teens.drugabuse.gov.


National Suicide Prevention Week Puts Focus on Education and Awareness

suicide prevention life line logoThis week is National Suicide Prevention Week, an annual observance that aims to inform and engage the nation around the topic of suicide prevention, encourage mental health treatment, and educate people on suicide’s warning signs and risk factors.

To learn more about the statistics related to suicide in the U.S., click here to see an infographic created by The National Council for Behavioral Health. And to learn more, click here to see the latest issue of The national Council’s magazine, “Suicide Prevention: Not Another Life to Lose” which features articles on national milestones in suicide prevention, special populations, stories of courage and hope, and more.

To read a pamphlet of important information that Passport put together for you to use if your teen is thinking of suicide, please click here.

Kentucky Gets $8.1 Million Grant to Help Students with Mental Health Needs

Through a new $8.1 million federal grant, schools across Kentucky will be able to better identify their student’s mental health issues and get them the help they need, according to a recent article in Kentucky Teacher. According to the report, “the Kentucky Department of Education was one of 120 state and local education agencies to be awarded an Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education (AWARE) grant last fall. In addition to providing training on how to detect students’ mental health needs, the grant will also improve the coordination of youth mental health services across the state.”

The Kentucky AWARE program will be piloted in Jefferson County, Fayette County, and Pulaski County schools and will then move statewide, said Gretta Hylton, executive staff advisor in KDE’s Office of Next Generation Learners. The grants are being administered through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and are part of the federal “Now Is the Time” initiative to decrease gun violence, increase access to mental health services, and increase school safety.


CMS Proposes Mental Health Parity for Medicaid Managed Care

Medicaid recipients who get services through managed care organizations (MCOs), such as Passport Health Plan, or alternative benefit plans would get the same access to mental health and substance abuse benefits as provided by private health plans, under a new federal proposal. According to an article in Modern Healthcare, the proposed rule would ensure beneficiaries have access to mental health and substance abuse benefits regardless of whether services are provided through the managed care organization or another service delivery system.