On Tuesday, St. Louis City Health’s Office of Behavioral Health began implementing its work after months of reviews and meetings with more than 100 stakeholders. The office process began as a partnership between the City of St. Louis and the CDC Foundation, utilizing seven CDC Foundation employees and now opening additional positions for the first five Health Department employees in St. Louis. The Department is prioritizing behavioral health as part of a comprehensive public health approach, working to improve access to mental health care and to include a sustained focus on treating substance abuse, particularly opioid abuse.
“Mental health and substance abuse in our city have been on the rise in recent years,” said Dr. Matthias Hlatshwayo Davis, St. Louis City Health Director. “As a public health professional, the numbers are staggering because these two problems can snowball into other threats. Bold action is the only solution, and we look forward to providing evidence-based solutions in the coming years.”
Mayor Tishaura O. “Public health is public safety,” Jones said. “Through the coordinated efforts of the Department of Health and numerous community partners, the Office of Behavioral Health’s forward-thinking strategy will decriminalize our city by addressing the root causes of crime and supporting the mental health and substance use needs of St. Louis residents.”
In 2019, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that approximately 61.2 million adults had a behavioral health problem. Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have seen higher levels of anxiety and depression symptoms and substance abuse among many adults. The city of St. Louis has the highest rates of emergency room visits due to drug overdoses and mental health concerns compared to the St. Louis region and the state.
“Our city faces many challenges like any city,” said Dr. Julie Gary, Chief of the Bureau of Behavioral Health. “One of those challenges is the statistically high prevalence of mental health and substance use disorders. With additional resources dedicated to behavioral health and stronger community partnerships, I look forward to addressing these issues with our new office team.
The City of St. Louis Health Department prioritizes behavioral health as part of a comprehensive, equitable public health approach. The objectives of the new office include:
- Establish equitable and competent system-level linkages to prevent drug abuse and overdose.
- Increase the availability, accessibility, and safe use of demographically inclusive qualitative and quantitative substance use data.
- Reduce the stigma of drug use and encourage helping behaviors.
As part of this next phase of the Office, the following materials will be developed and used: a strategic plan, an implementation and sustainability plan, and an initial dashboard on the opioid crisis.
The above objectives are achieved in the following ways.
- Recruit and train more employees
- More alliance building and financial support for community partners
- A mobile distribution van available at community and healing events
- Distribution of Narcan
- Connecting citizens with appropriate and adequate care
- Training and capacity building for community organizations
Secondary funds come from the Missouri Department of Health and Seniors (DHHS), the American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA), the Health Care Trust Fund in the Health Department’s FY24 budget, and an agreement from opioid manufacturers.
Phase 1 of this project is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (HHS) of the US Department of Health and Human Services as part of a CDC/HHS 100 percent funded grant award. The content is that of the author(s) and does not necessarily represent the official views of CDC/HHS or the US Government.