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Major Behavioral Health Organization Goes Tobacco-Free April 1

(April 2, 2019) - MINNEAPOLIS

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 fourth major behavioral health organization in Minnesota implemented a tobacco-free grounds policy into their programs and locations on April 1.

Vail Place will implement the policy as the fourth partner in a cohort collaborating with the American Lung Association in Minnesota. Three behavioral health organizations from their cohort went tobacco-free in 2018 including Avivo, Mental Health Resources and People Incorporated. The four organizations serve approximately 42,000 individuals across Minnesota, and have an estimated 1,400 staff who will benefit from the initiative.

“This cohort is the largest voluntary tobacco-free initiative executed by behavioral health facilities in Minnesota,” said Reba Mathern-Jacobson, health specialist for the Lung Association in Minnesota. “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 also 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, mixed anxiety and depression, and stress significantly decreased among those who quit smoking compared with those who continued smoking.

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.

“Tobacco use is the primary cause of death and disease among individuals with mental illness,” says Vicky Coulliard, executive director of Vail Place. “To continue to allow tobacco use on our grounds is completely contrary to our mission to cultivate hope and inspire change to promote mental health recovery.”

The tobacco-free policies apply to all buildings and grounds associated with the organization with phase-in dates for some residential units.  The use of commercial tobacco and tobacco-like products is now prohibited and includes cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, snuff, pipes, dissolvable tobacco products and snus.  As part of the initiative, the four 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 facilitated referrals to other treatment services in the community.

The American Lung Association in Minnesota and the MN Leadership Academy Collaborative have developed materials for behavioral health professionals and leaders who are interested in pursuing similar initiatives for their organizations. Organizations interested in joining the next cohort of peer learning and assistance to develop a tobacco-free ground policy and tobacco treatment support should contact [email protected]. New cohort members will receive mentorship from the original cohort of the four organizations that have already gone tobacco-free.

The work of the Lung Association in Minnesota 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.

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 Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide Seal, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit:

Vail Place
Vail Place’s mission is to cultivate hope and inspire change to bring mental health recovery.   Vail Place is a community resources and has been providing whole health services to people with mental illnesses since 1981 including Clubhouse community support services, Case Management, Behavioral Health Home, navigation, housing, and employment services. They are an Accountable Care Partner with North Memorial Health’s Integrated Health Partnership and work with a variety of community partners to assist people with serious mental illnesses work toward self-sufficiency by providing comprehensive, integrated services, supports, and resources.

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