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Three Minnesota Behavioral health Organizations to Implement Tobacco-Free Policies

(November 15, 2017) -

For more information please contact:

James Martinez
[email protected]
(312) 445-2501

Three major Minnesota organizations that serve people with mental illness and/or substance-use disorders announced they will integrate a commercial tobacco-free grounds policy into all of their programs and locations by the end of 2018.

The organizations, People Incorporated, Avivo (formerly RESOURCE) and Mental Health Resources, serve approximately 40,000 individuals across Minnesota. They also have an estimated 1,400 staff who will benefit from the initiative. This is the largest voluntary tobacco-free initiative executed by behavioral health facilities in Minnesota.

“Studies indicate that people with a mental health disorder or a substance-use disorder have a higher rate of smoking and are often not given tobacco-treatment resources,” says Janelle Koscinski, senior manager of tobacco programs with the American Lung Association in Minnesota. “Tobacco-free policies like the one that these behavioral health facilities will implement are proven to reduce smoking rates in these communities, which will improve the overall health of these individuals.”

The three organizations will implement the policy in partnership with the American Lung Association in Minnesota to align available tobacco treatment opportunities, and to demonstrate a unified force to provide health and wellness benefits for all individuals receiving services, as well as for the staff.

“We see, first-hand, the health disparities experienced by our clients,” says Jill Wiedemann-West, CEO of People Incorporated. “Tobacco treatment plays a significant role in treating the whole person – a key part of our mission and promise to our clients, staff and communities.”

While tobacco use has often been viewed by some in mental health and substance-use treatment as a low priority and even as a potential coping mechanism, it is the number one cause of death and disease among those with mental illness. 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.

“The use of tobacco and secondhand smoke exposure are proven health and safety hazards that carry very serious health risks,” says Kelly Matter, president and CEO of Avivo (formally RESOURCE). “Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States and is inconsistent with our mission to increase well-being through recovery, employment and career advancement.”

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.

“Addressing tobacco has to be a priority,” says Ann Henderson, vice president of Clinical Services for Mental Health Resources. “It’s a social justice issue. We as a culture have not prioritized the health of this population, to disastrous consequences.”

The tobacco-free policy will apply to all buildings and grounds associated with the three organizations.  The use of commercial tobacco and tobacco-like products will be prohibited and will include cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, snuff, pipes, dissolvable tobacco products and snus.

Leading up to the policy taking effect, the organizations will meet monthly with the American Lung Association to prepare for its implementation. The American Lung Association will also provide future trainings, resources and linkages for clients and staff on integrating tobacco treatment services into existing treatment and wellness programs.

About the American Lung Association in Minnesota
The American Lung Association in Minnesota 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:

Avivo (formerly RESOURCE)
Avivo serves more than 18,000 Minnesotans each year, helping them achieve recovery, employment, and economic advancement. Founded in 1960, Avivo provides chemical and mental health services, career education, and employment services. We specialize in helping individuals and families who face personal or systemic barriers – poverty, homelessness, joblessness, chemical addiction or mental health concerns – achieve recovery and economic stability. We believe everyone deserves the chance to live well and work well. For more information, visit

Mental Health Resources
Mental Health Resources is one of Minnesota’s largest nonprofit organizations, with more than 40 years fostering hope, health, and recovery with individuals with serious mental illness. We provide innovative, recovery-based, behavioral health services with measurable outcomes improving the lives of those affected by mental illness. Over the last 4 years, we have invested in agency-wide culture changes to better meet the health and wellness needs of adults living in the community with mental illness. This has included initiatives addressing tobacco, nutrition, physical activity, and dental care. More information is available at

People Incorporated
People Incorporated represents a critical service link in Minnesota’s community-based mental health system. We serve over 15,000 individuals annually through more than 60 programs in and around the Twin Cities.

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