The AmeriCares Mental Health Initiative (MHI) commitment will create a new resource for Community Mental Health Centers (CMHCs) and other nonprofit behavioral health (BH) providers that serve low-income, uninsured and underinsured people with mental illness. Through the MHI, AmeriCares and its partners commit to improving access to care through targeted gift-in-kind donations of high quality psychiatric medicine for CMHCs and the mental health safety net. Direct distribution of these donated resources will be made by the CMHCs to clients who cannot afford their prescription medications and are living at less than 300 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. This commitment will enable resource-constrained mental health safety net organizations to improve quality of care, relieve product shortages, reduce out-of-pocket expenses and expand treatment options.
In the initial phase of this new initiative, the goal is to onboard a network of 175 community mental health centers (CMHCs) and behavioral health (BH) partners in ten priority states: California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin. To determine key resource gaps and identify areas of capacity building needs, a national survey of the mental and behavioral health safety net will also be conducted in early 2016 with the support of an external public health consulting firm.
Concurrently, AmeriCares will work with its longstanding pharmaceutical gift-in-kind donors to identify and encourage the donation of, and secure a variety of, high quality psychiatric medicine that can be provided to these new network partners at no cost. Advancements to AmeriCares distribution center in Stamford will be made to accommodate expected increases in small pack shipping as a result of this programs expected growth. Learnings from phase 1 will inform the national expansion plan through 2017.
Partners joining this commitment include the Half Moon Foundation, Michael W. Louis Charitable Trust and Josephine P. & John J. Louis Foundation who collectively are providing funding to launch the program; AstraZeneca has seeded the program with a major donation of psychiatric medications and will continue to consider targeted requests for gift-in-kind donations to support the network; the General Electric Foundation is providing a combination of pro bono and financial investments to increase capacity in AmeriCares domestic distribution platform, on which the Mental Health Initiative is built; and the National Council of Behavioral Health Services will collaborate on program and partnership development, including making critical connections to regional and local influencers, helping to raise awareness and support for increased access to mental health services for vulnerable populations, and collaborating on development and dissemination of the national survey.
The near term goal is to officially launch the program in the third quarter of 2015 with a concrete strategy for network expansion, securing product donations and program roll out in 2016 and 2017.
Q4 2015: secure additional funding required to support the MHI, identify priority medications required by CMHC partners, host webinars to engage potential BH partners in the demonstration states, develop relationships with national and state BH associations, onboard an initial 100 CMHC partners in ten demonstration states, identify pharmaceutical donors for outreach and build internal capacity to support a new network of BH partners, conduct ongoing outreach to pharmaceutical donors to request psychotherapeutic products to support the MHI, secure a minimum of $13.3 million in donated psychotherapeutic products, identify one generic provider to anchor program.
Mental illness is a significant and widespread problem in the United States. Nationally, 42.5 million adults experienced a mental illness in the past year (Mental Health America, 15), with 9.6 million adults coping with a serious mental illness (SMI), including major depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia (SAMHSA, 9). People with mental illness are twice as likely to be poor and uninsured as compared to the general population (Mechanic, 1011). Those who lack adequate insurance have difficulty accessing mental health treatment in the U.S. and are thus at an increased risk of hospitalization, poor health outcomes and diminished quality of life. Morbidity and mortality are also higher in people who suffer from SMI than those who do not. They experience higher rates of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and HIV/AIDS. They also have a higher frequency of comorbid medical conditions and a premature death rate two times higher than the general population (Scarf et at., 20).
Adherence to medication therapy, and thus symptom-reduction and enhanced functioning, increase when people with mental illness are able to leave a psychiatric visit with critical medicines.
Currently, community mental health centers and other nonprofit behavioral health providers rely almost exclusively on pharmaceutical patient assistance programs and low-cost generics to access medicines for their uninsured clients whose conditions require medication. While these options help, not all their clients qualify for PAP, or are unable to complete the extensive paperwork required to enroll; while for others, the $5 required to purchase generic medications are unaffordable or otherwise another barrier to treatment.
AmeriCares U.S. Program is the largest provider of donated medicine, vaccines, medical supplies and hygiene products to the U.S. health care safety net, delivering products valued at more than $118 million in the last year alone. The Program partners with more than 800 free and charitable clinics, community health centers, rural health centers, county health departments, nonprofit hospitals and charitable pharmacies that serve more than 5 million patients at over 2,000 locations in all 50 states. Through an online web portal, partners view real-time inventory donated by pharmaceutical partners and place direct orders that are then shipped from the AmeriCares warehouse in Stamford, CT. This platform will be the foundation on which the AmeriCares Mental Health Initiative is built.