Linn County wellness program emphasizes mental health

The Lund Report, May 26, 2014

8DimensionsOfWellness_701x474What is wellness?  That’s the question InterCommunity Health Network, the coordinated care organization for Benton, Lincoln, and Linn counties, is encouraging people to explore by launching its life-health awareness campaign.  The campaign’s slogan, “Your wellness is more than physical,” emphasizes that an individual’s well-being includes more than what they eat and their cholesterol and BMI count – and brings mental health into the picture.

The campaign is part of the mental health literacy pilot project for Linn County, and incorporates the eight dimensions of wellness developed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: emotions, body, mind, environment, finances, community, spirit and work.

“We want people to think about what is going on in their life, to think about what affects them,” said Cristie Lynch, marketing and communications manager for Samaritan Health Plans. “So far the response has been nothing but positive. We’re really excited about that. This is something really new in terms of what’s been done historically. Typically dollars are spent on services.  We’re laying the foundation for mental health literacy.”

Mental health literacy means educating the community about the difference between mental health and mental illness.

“We wanted to develop mental health literacy in the community and reduce stigma around mental illness,” said Tony Howell, program manager for the Linn County Alcohol and Drug Program. “Mental Health Literacy is a foundation for understanding how mental health and mental illness fits in with the full spectrum (of overall health). By looking at mental health promotion we’re preventing mental illness by increasing the chances of early intervention. Mental illness is really no different than conditions that affect well-being in other areas.”

The awareness campaign gives people the opportunity to complete a confidential self-assessment tool to identify areas in their life that might need attention, and ways they can improve their wellness.

Linn County is the natural choice to pilot this program since 58 percent of IHN’s members live in that county and its mental health program has been very proactive in the community around substance abuse and problem gambling.

“As a CCO, the mental health aspect (of wellness) is something we’ve come to recently,” Lynch explained. “Our partners at Linn County Mental Health have had a significant impact on where we’re going and what we’re trying to do.”

“The effort came out of a proactive stance rather than reactive,” noted Frank Moore, Linn County health administrator and mental health director.

Although IHN serves Oregon Health Plan members, this campaign could have far reaching ramifications, Lynch said. “The educational part of the campaign is very pervasive.”

The campaign, which runs through July, is aimed at Linn County residents through billboards; radio, transit, movie theater and newspapers ads; posters and brochures at sponsored events and in community, county, school and faith organizations; and displays in Samaritan clinics, grocery stores and the shopping mall in Albany.

“The campaign goes well beyond Oregon Health Plan members and is fueling a community-wide effort,” Moore said. “I’ve seen a clear commitment from the leadership of Samaritan Health Plans and IHN to build on systems that are already in place and to address the needs of the entire community.”

The funding for this pilot project comes from IHN-CCO’s transformation funds. According to Lynch, each project is evaluated based upon how it addresses those benchmarks, and must be approved by the CCO stakeholders, which includes private and public entities.  IHN-CCO declined to disclose the cost of the life-health campaign with The Lund Report.