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Fifth Minnesota Behavioral Health Org Goes Tobacco-Free

(August 6, 2019) - Minneapolis, MN

For more information please contact:

Jill Thompson
[email protected]

Citing the fact that commercial tobacco use is the primary cause of death and disease among individuals with mental illness and substance use disorders, a fifth major behavioral health organization in Minnesota implemented a tobacco-free grounds policy into their programs and locations in July, and now provides tobacco treatment along with their other services.

Central Minnesota Mental Health Center (CMMHC) implemented the policy and has now joined the Leadership Academy Collaborative as a member of the second cohort of behavioral health partners. CMMHC joins four other major behavioral health organizations that went tobacco-free over the past year -- Avivo, Mental Health Resource, People Incorporated and Vail Place. In total, these organizations serve approximately 53,000 individuals across Minnesota, and have an estimated 1,700 staff who benefit from the initiative.

“There is a growing understanding in Minnesota that integrating tobacco treatment into mental health and other addiction treatment significantly enhances recovery and helps behavioral health programs fulfill their missions,” said Reba Mathern-Jacobson, MSW, health specialist for the Lung Association. “People with mental illness or substance-use disorders have higher rates of tobacco use, but are often not given resources to quit tobacco. By going tobacco-free, and providing tobacco treatment support, these facilities are committed to treating the full health of the individual and help reduce the death and disease associated with tobacco use in this community.”

In addition to reducing the physical-health impacts, there are behavioral health benefits associated with treating tobacco dependence. An analysis of 26 separate studies showed improved mental health with quitting smoking and found that anxiety, depression, and stress significantly decreased among those who quit smoking compared with those who continued smoking. Tobacco treatment provided during substance use disorder treatment is associated with 25% increased likelihood of long-term abstinence from alcohol and illicit drugs.

Past surveys have shown that up to 75-percent of individuals with a mental illness who smoke want to quit, compared to 60-percent of the overall population of people who smoke. In addition, studies have shown that adults with serious mental health illness and a tobacco-related diagnosis on average died 32 years earlier than adults without a serious mental health illness and without a tobacco-related diagnosis.

“It wasn’t all that long ago when we paid virtually no attention to the tobacco use of the people we serve, and often facilitated in our silence,” said Dr. Rick Lee, executive director of CMMHC.  “We now know that our customers’ lives may literally depend on us engaging with them around decreasing or eliminating their tobacco dependence. I mean, if not us, then who is going to eagerly join with them to do it? Making our grounds tobacco-free seems like a no-brainer and represents a concrete step in living our mission.”

The tobacco-free policies apply to all buildings and grounds associated with the organizations, with phase-in dates for some residential units.  The use of all tobacco products is now prohibited and includes cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, snuff, pipes, dissolvable tobacco products and snus.  As part of the initiative, the five organizations also provide a range of support for clients and staff which may include nicotine replacement medicines, counseling for those who want to address their tobacco use, and coordinated referrals to other treatment services in the community.

The work of Lung Association to reduce tobacco-related health disparities among those with mental illness and substance use disorders is funded, in part, by the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota as part of Blue Cross’ long-term commitment to tackle the leading causes of preventable disease: tobacco use, lack of physical activity and unhealthy eating.

Organizations who want more information or assistance to develop a tobacco-free grounds policy or tobacco treatment support should contact [email protected].


About the American Lung Association

The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit:

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