The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) state that approximately 62 million (30%) Americans experience either some difficulty with “basic” movement, cognitive, sensory, or emotional problems. About 14% of people experience “complex activity limitations” in their ability to participate in society, including maintaining a household, working, and pursuing hobbies. There are many barriers that stand in the way of people with disabilities having access to health care.
“Health disparity,” generally refers to a higher burden of illness, injury, disability, or mortality experienced by one population group relative to another group. According to a recent study from the CDC, an estimated 17.4 million individuals with disabilities experience frequent mental distress, 4.6 times as often as individuals without a disability. Individuals with a co-occurring Disability and Mental Illness are a vulnerable population often people served by Medicaid, the Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities, and the Office of Behavioral Health. Individuals with cognitive and mobility disabilities most frequently reported mental distress (55.6%). Often, in Louisiana existing programs and services tend to be organized as though individuals have either a mental illness or a disability, but not both.
Individuals with co-occurring disorders, especially African American’s and others living in poverty face significant barriers to services related to a lack of coordination and collaboration across service systems, as well as gaps in clinical expertise, and access to appropriate community-based services/programs often are unavailable or inadequate. In most cases, family members provide the majority of support to people with disabilities across their lifespan, providing an average of 32 hours per week of unpaid care according to NAMI.
What families and individuals need in Louisiana is to receive the quality of care necessary for community-based living including: long-term services; primary health care; and behavioral supports to reduce not only mental distress but also the stigma that individuals with co-occurring conditions face.
The Arc of Louisiana will be working with the Southwest ADA Center, ILRU over the next five years to develop healthcare resources to address the existing barriers, service gaps and inadequacies in both service systems, and to improve the access and quality of healthcare for individuals with disabilities and co-occurring mental illness Through our new project “Changing Health Outcomes for People with Disabilities and Co-Occurring Mental Illness”.
These goals will be achieved by:
- Developing opportunities for individuals who have co-occurring disabilities and families to meet with state department staff, and policy makers, to share critical issues and discuss ideas on what’s needed to better support them.
- Provide training and education to individuals who have co-occurring disabilities and families on resources, supports and services that are available to them.
- Provide training and education to state department staff and providers on how to better serve individuals with co-occurring disabilities and their families across systems.
- Partner with the Offices of Behavioral Health and the Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities to work toward re-funding a Stabilization Unit and Developmental Neuropsychiatric Unit.
- Collaborate with health care providers, and support coordinators to provide education, training, and resources that assist health care professionals with the tools necessary to appropriately serve people with disabilities and co-occurring mental illness across the state.
For more information or to request a training, please contact The Arc of Louisiana at 225-383-1033.