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(July 26, 2018) -

For more information please contact:

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

Citing the fact that commercial tobacco use is the primary cause of death and disease among individuals with mental illness and substance use disorders, two of Minnesota’s leading behavioral health organizations will implement a tobacco-free grounds policy into all of their programs and locations on July 30. 

The two organizations, Avivo (formerly RESOURCE) and Mental Health Resources, will implement the policy in partnership with the American Lung Association in Minnesota. A third behavioral health organization, People Incorporated, is scheduled to implement the same policy in November. The three organizations serve approximately 40,000 individuals across Minnesota, and 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,” says 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.
“It is crucial that tobacco cessation treatment becomes an essential part of all mental health services,” says Kathy Gregersen, the executive director of Mental Health Resources. “In order to best serve this population, it is critical that mental health organizations develop a smoke free environment to promote overall health.”

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.

“Based on a survey of men and women in our treatment programs, approximately 88 percent use tobacco,” says Kelly Matter, Avivo President & CEO. “Nearly all tobacco users were interested in quitting, and the majority mentioned they would use Avivo’s help to quit using tobacco. Providers in the addiction treatment arena are uniquely positioned to provide tobacco cessation treatment as part of overall wellness support.”

The tobacco-free policy will apply to all buildings and grounds associated with the 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.  As part of the initiative, the organizations are also providing support for clients and staff including nicotine replacement medicines and counseling for those who want to address their tobacco use.

The Lung Association in Minnesota has developed materials for behavioral health professionals and leaders who are interested in pursuing similar initiatives for their organizations.

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 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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