“People with mental illness are overrepresented among smokers, and very few cessation programs dedicated specifically to mentally ill smokers exist throughout the country, leaving experts nationwide struggling to answer the question, ‘What can we do for this population?’” said study co-author Jill M. Williams, M.D., an associate professor of psychiatry and director of the Division of Addiction Psychiatry at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
In “A Comprehensive Model for Mental Health Tobacco Recovery,” Williams and her colleagues at the UMDNJ-School of Public Health and UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School present strategies that engage patients, professionals and the community to address tobacco use. The article appears this month in Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research, a Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, publication.
The proposed Mental Health Tobacco Recovery in New Jersey (MHTR-NJ) model calls for evidence-based treatment(s) in the behavioral health care clinical setting; incorporating tobacco information into wellness programs that encourage healthy lifestyles; adapting smoking cessation programs to suit individuals’ needs; and developing peer-based services for smokers. “An integrated approach is key in helping these individuals succeed,” said study co-author Mia Hanos Zimmermann, M.P.H., C.T.T.S., research project coordinator in the Division of Addiction Psychiatry at the UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
Each of the policy or cessation initiatives described in the article has two core goals: increase demand for tobacco cessation services for mentally ill smokers and help more smokers with mental illness to quit.
Although public health interventions have resulted in decreased smoking rates among the general U.S. population over the last 50 years, smokers with mental illness have not benefited as greatly from these efforts, the researchers report. The researchers added that smoking rates among individuals with a mental illness or addiction are at least double those of the general population and some estimates are that two-thirds of current cigarette smokers have a past or present mental health or substance abuse disorder. Further, individuals with mental illness suffer many consequences of tobacco use, including a loss of an average 25 years of life expectancy, and evidence has shown that a frequent cause of early mortality in this group is cardiovascular disease.
Williams said the MHTR-NJ approach could become a model even outside of New Jersey, particularly given that tested initiatives have been successful with minimal costs. MHTR-NJ was developed with support from and collaborations with the New Jersey Department of Human Services and its Division of Mental Health Services.
Reporters interested in arranging an interview with Dr. Jill Williams should contact Zenaida Mendez at (973) 972-7273 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) is the nation’s largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 6,000 students attending the state’s three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and its only school of public health on five campuses. Annually, there are more than two million patient visits at UMDNJ facilities and faculty practices at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, which provides a continuum of healthcare services with multiple locations throughout the state.