The past year has been hard for us all. The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to physically distance ourselves from friends and loved ones and brought financial hardship and uncertainty. This was on top of fears for our own health and the health of our loved ones. All of this contributes to increased levels of stress, anxiety, loneliness, and even depression – elements that are central to our behavioral health. An increase in behavioral health conditions like this can lead to behaviors like eating poorly, smoking and drinking alcohol. These actions worsen our behavioral health and can have a direct impact on our physical health.
Behavioral health issues touch people in all walks of life in Arkansas. But, many people don’t get the help they or their children need to treat these issues. As part of our commitment to a healthier Arkansas, we are taking action to support proven behavioral health resources for the unique needs of our community.
Taking Action Now
Through our Blue & You Foundation for a Healthier Arkansas, we are investing $5.29 million in Arkansas-based programs to improve access to, and awareness of, behavioral health programs focused on our community. We are giving money to six organizations across Arkansas. Each are proven experts on addressing behavioral health needs in children and adults, and also help grow our state’s network of behavioral health medical professionals. [See photos from our press conference announcing this initiative here.]
Investing in Our Future
The health and well-being of our children is something we all care deeply about. Too often, behavioral health conditions in children are not detected until later in life. Untreated behavioral health conditions early in life, such as anxiety, depression, or issues related to childhood trauma, can lead to significant health problems as children age.
The Blue & You Foundation is investing in two programs that will help address the causes of behavioral health conditions in children and support them and their families in identifying the care they need.
- HealthySteps, a pilot program led by Arkansas Children’s, places behavioral health specialists in pediatric primary care clinics in Arkansas to help families better understand and recognize symptoms of behavioral health conditions in children and connect them to care.
- Arkansas Trauma Resource Initiative for Schools provides resources to school employees to recognize signs of childhood trauma and support children and their families by connecting them with local behavioral healthcare resources. The program also provides behavioral health resources to schools during times of crisis,
Strengthening Our Care Provider Network
You can’t access behavioral healthcare services if there aren’t enough trained care providers. Unfortunately, Arkansas faces a shortage of these providers. To support a stronger, healthier future, grants to Arkansas State University, University of Arkansas – Fayetteville, and University of Arkansas – Little Rock, will expand Master of Social Work programs, training new specialists and placing them in primary care settings here in the Natural State.
Breaking Down the Stigma Associated with Behavioral Health
Improving access to behavioral healthcare is important, but we know that there are other things preventing people from taking that first step to care. Needing behavioral healthcare is completely normal, but unfortunately there is often stigma or shame associated with these conditions that might prevent people from seeking care.
The Blue & You Foundation’s investment in AR-Connect and our state chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI Arkansas) will focus on improving awareness and acceptance of behavioral health symptoms and the care available to all Arkansans. AR-Connect also provides access to those in crisis through a hotline available 24-hours a day, seven days a week. With programs that help children and adults, these support groups can make a difference for those who may not know where to start with care, have questions about the cost of care, or have concerns about seeking this care because of stigma.
Behavioral health is as critical to a person’s health, wellbeing and ability to thrive as any physical health concern. It is part of what we call our whole person approach to healthcare—our mission to address all the elements that influence health and wellness for Arkansans.
We are proud to make this new investment in support of Arkansas-based programs that provide resources to people who seek behavioral health support, while also investing in the future of care in our communities by supporting the training and placement of health care professionals.
If you are struggling with mental health issues like depression, anxiety and/or stress, call AR-Connect at 501-526-3563 or 1-800-482-9921.