“Individuals with chronic mental illness tend to die 25 years earlier than the general population and much of that disparity can be traced to the fact that this population consumes 44 percent of all cigarettes in the United States,” Dr. Steinberg said. “Quitlines represent an effective approach to helping these individuals quit smoking that overcomes several common barriers faced by those with serious mental illness.”
To examine the perceived benefits and barriers of a telephone Quitline for smokers with serious mental illness, Dr. Steinberg and UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School colleague Donna Drummond, MS, LPC, CTSS, conducted focus groups involving smokers with serious mental illness and with staff members of mental health programs. The results, which were presented recently at the National Conference on Tobacco or Health in Kansas City, MO, indicated that smokers with serious mental illness and the staff members who work with them recognize many strengths and challenges of a telephone Quitline for smokers with serious mental illness.
“The Quitline approach overcomes transportation and cost barriers for smokers with serious mental illness and that’s a great benefit,” Dr. Steinberg said. “Unfortunately, there are other barriers that may be unique to this population. For example, several of the smokers with serious mental illness did not like the idea of a ‘Quit Coach’ calling them on their phones. They wanted to be the ones to initiate the calls and were uneasy with the idea of being re-contacted.”
Mental health staff members also reported that many patients tend to be protective of their limited cell phone minutes and would be concerned about using up their minutes on the QuitLine. Dr. Steinberg believes that these barriers can be overcome relatively easily by arranging for calls at times when the patient has access to a landline number and can conduct the calls in private. According to Dr. Steinberg, many of the identified barriers to the QuitLine are addressable and information on how that can be accomplished is available at www.tobaccofreenj.com. He also notes that smokers looking for free support in quitting smoking may call the New Jersey QuitLine at-1-866-657-8677.
Dr. Steinberg’s research was supported by a grant from the New Jersey Department of Health Office of Tobacco Control.
Media interested in interviewing Dr. Steinberg should contact Jerry Carey, UMDNJ News Service, at 856-566-6171 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
As one of the nation’s leading comprehensive medical schools, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School is dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in education, research, health care delivery, and the promotion of community health. In cooperation with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, the medical school’s principal affiliate, they comprise one of the nation’s premier academic medical centers. In addition, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School has 34 other hospital affiliates and ambulatory care sites throughout the region.
As one of the eight schools of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey with 2,800 full-time and volunteer faculty, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School encompasses 22 basic science and clinical departments, hosts centers and institutes including The Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the Child Health Institute of New Jersey, the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine, the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, and the Stem Cell Institute of New Jersey. The medical school maintains educational programs at the undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate levels for more than 1,500 students on its campuses in New Brunswick, Piscataway, and Camden, and provides continuing education courses for health care professionals and community education programs.
About the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey
The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) is New Jersey’s only health sciences university with more than 6,000 students on five campuses attending three medical schools, the State’s only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and New Jersey’s only school of public health. 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.