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Behavioral Health is September Topic

Image of Margo KerriganMargo Kerrigan, M.P.H., Area Director
Indian Health Service California Area Office

September 2005 - Six of the top ten causes of death for American Indians are directly related to life style, behavior and mental health. In addition to effect on other health problems, mental health and substance abuse problems contribute to a whole host of social problems including family dysfunction, financial difficulty, and crime. Additionally, theses problems cause enormous suffering for the affected individual, and those close to him or her.

In recognition of the tremendous impact the mental health and substance abuse issues have on society, they are noted twice this month as National Health Observances.

September 4-10, 2005 has been declared Suicide Prevention week. Suicide is an enormous public health problem in Indian Country. It is the 2nd leading cause of death in the American Indians aged 15 through 24. American Indians in this age group take their own life twice as frequently as other races and ethnic groups. Unfortunately, the stigma associated with suicide frequently complicates recognition of the problem, and hence, dealing effectively with it. Thankfully, examples exist which demonstrate that when suicide is addressed as a serious public health problem, suicide rates can be significantly reduced. The California Area Office (CAO) has been an active participant in the Indian Health Service recently developed Suicide Prevention program. These suicide prevention efforts include the expansion of suicide surveillance efforts, as well as the development of a team of mental health professionals which will respond to communities that have experienced a cluster of suicides.

September is also National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery month. Alcohol and substance abuse recovery is something which I have made a top priority for years. In addition to providing funds for the treatment of alcohol and substance abuse problems, I have provided the leadership necessary to expand treatment services for our next generation of Indian leaders, our youth. The Youth Regional Treatment Center Network, created by the CAO, provides for alcohol and substance abuse treatment services along the entire continuum of services, which are required for most affected youth. This includes out-patient assessment and counseling services, residential treatment, transitional living and group homes services, and aftercare services. Further, I am very pleased that we will begin construction of two large Federal Youth Residential Treatment Centers in the California in the next couple of years.

Please join me in the special recognition of these important health issues during this month of September.

If you have any questions about any of the alcohol and substance abuse initiatives, programs, or treatment services with which the California Area Office is involved, please feel free to navigate our website, or contact our Behavioral Health Consultant, Dr. Dave Sprenger at (916) 930-3981 ext. 321, or email at David.Sprenger@ihs.gov.

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