News & Information
by Elsie Freeman MD
People with a diagnosis of Serious Mental Illness (SMI) die 25 years sooner than their age mates in the general population. The average age of death for someone with a diagnosis of SMI is 52. People with SMI die of chronic diseases such as
diabetes or cardiovascular disease and not as a result of their mental illness. Many times they have more than one chronic health condition that accompanies their mental illness. In Maine and nationally, 70% of those with SMI have at least one additional serious health condition.
While these statistics are sobering, the good news is that there is a growing recognition among mental health providers, physical health providers, and state and
federal policy makers that the health needs of people with serious mental illness need to be addressed and treated along with their mental illness.
Common Ties is one of six community-based mental health agencies in the state participating in a project funded by the Maine Health Access Foundation, through a grant to the Maine DHHS Office of Quality Improvement, to improve the health status of those with serious mental illness, to forge stronger links with a
primary care home, and to increase health and wellness behaviors. Specifically, the grant is targeting people with a diagnosis of diabetes and SMI. In Maine, 25% of those with SMI have diabetes and an additional 35% have metabolic syndrome (obesity/hypertension/dyslipidemia), which puts them at significant risk for developing
Common Ties case managers Wanda Kelmanski and Mikki Swift are working with consumers’ primary care practices to complete a health screen developed by the project and to improve care for consumers with diabetes. They are also working with diabetes educators from St. Mary’s and CMMC to bring diabetes self management classes directly to the consumers served by Common Ties. Common Ties Wellness and Recovery Center will be distributing healthy eating factsheets at its membership’s food
distribution and hopes to expand the health screen to people who meet at the center.