Healthcare workers decide plan on mental health strategy during Omaha meeting

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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) – Dr. James Sorrell is a medical doctor and psychiatrist at Methodist Hospital in Fremont.

He told 6 News in the 30 years he’s practiced medicine in Nebraska, mental health in youth hasn’t seemed to be getting better.

“We see a lot of kids in crisis,” Sorrell said. “We’re seeing them in the emergency rooms, schools are struggling in ways they never have with it, and the resources that are available in some levels are diminishing.”

That has an impact on their physical health.

“Kids with mental health issues are more likely to end up taking poor care of themselves, they’re more likely to end up with substance abuse issues, which contribute vastly to poor medical outcomes,” Sorrell said.

He was one of more than a dozen mental health and medical professionals from around the country who took part in a group meeting the behavioral health group Omni Inventive Care hosted at the Farnam Hotel Friday.

It was actually a follow-up to a similar meeting of minds Omni held in August.

President and CEO Dr. Bill Reay said he thinks mental health care in the U.S. has deteriorated over the last 35 years, and that what participants got out of that August meeting is that the science for treating mental health is there, but it’s just not well organized or easily accessible.

“We recognized that we really needed to get the best science into the hands of people who need it—including consumers, parents—so they can evaluate whether or not the therapist for their child is actually providing the best care,” Reay said.

He and Sorrell said it comes at a crucial time. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the number of youths hospitalized for mental health increased between 2009 and 2019.

“The difficulties, many of them were exacerbated by COVID,” Sorrell said. “Disruptions from school, from the social supports…in homes that are struggling, they became more isolated.”

So they’re launching the National Behavioral Health Revitalization Plan. Keeping true to one of its four pillars, they aim to transform how mental health care in this country is done.

Reay said they spent Thursday and Friday planning on how to do that, by pushing forward initiatives for changes to policy, practice, academic training. That would include advocating for legislation and also meeting with licensing boards and professional guilds.

The hope is that it would shift how counselors, social workers and prescribers treat mental health so people can get treatment that fits best.

Reay said he’s never attempted something like this before. However, he feels confident that health professionals and policy makers they reach out to will be receptive to what they have to say.

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