The Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation has awarded a $95,000 grant to Prevention Connections to help reduce smoking and other tobacco use among mental health and substance abuse patients in Virginia. “There is a significant gap in tobacco cessation services for the behavioral health population in Virginia. The smoking rate among this population is significantly greater than among other adults,” says Cathleen Grzesiek, board chair of Prevention Connections, a Richmond-based nonprofit focused on preventing tobacco use and obesity, the two leading causes of preventable deaths in the United States. About 19.3 percent of adults in the United States smoke; various reports estimate that the smoking rate among adult mental health and substance abuse patients is as high as 60 percent to 90 percent.
In Virginia, 18.5 percent of adults are smokers. At least 9,200 Virginians die each year from health problems caused by their own smoking.
Prevention Connections will partner with the Alliance for the Prevention and Treatment of Nicotine Addiction and numerous state community services boards and behavioral health organizations to implement these initiatives through Sept. 30, 2013. The primary goals of the program relate to integrating tobacco cessation as a standard practice in behavioral health settings, including developing a toolkit of provider education resources and enabling education and training to equip and empower providers with skills and tools to intervene effectively with behavioral healthcare patients to reduce tobacco use.