Across the United States, people suffering behavioral
health issues such as depression, anxiety and mood disorders are the number one
condition standing between people and optimal health, according to the Blue
Cross Blue Shield Health Index.
Yet communities around the country find
behavioral health problems difficult and daunting, and needs in this important
health category often go unmet. At Premera, we are doing more to help
organizations in Washington state and Alaska meet these challenges.
Behavioral health tends to get less attention than physical health, but
that's not because it has a smaller impact on our individual health. The
National Institute of Mental Health reports that nearly one in five adults in
the U.S. has some sort of mental health condition, not including substance
abuse, and the impact ranges from no or mild impairment to severely disabling.
And the U.S. Health and Human Services Department reports that depression is
the third most common reason to visit any medical facility, after hypertension
Yet far too often, behavioral health needs are
undiagnosed and, therefore, untreated. For example, primary care doctors
identify less than one-third of patients suffering from depression. The
problem is worse in historically underserved communities, including people of
color and low-income populations, where community health data consistently
shows treatment disparities among these groups. This disparity leads to worse
health outcomes and increased costs.
Premera has recently taken a leap
forward to meeting these health challenges as we solidify our commitment to
social responsibility and effective philanthropy, looking strategically for a
direct impact on neighborhoods and communities throughout Washington state and
As part of this, we have focused our community giving program
on behavioral health issues, with a particular emphasis on funding programs
that help those underserved communities. We expect to donate $2 million in
2017 through our Social Impact Grants program, an effort that gives financial
support to evidence based-programs and pilot projects with the potential for
Working with and through community organizations
will make a bigger impact. These are tough problems, with no simple
solutions, so organizations with shared goals need to work together. We'll
also do more than donate money. For example, Premera employees will be
engaged through our company-wide Social Impact Day and other team
We believe that this work can help make a small dent in
ending the stigma associated with behavioral and metal health issues -- only
25 percent of adults with mental health symptoms believe people are sympathetic
and caring to those with mental illness, according to a U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention survey. The stigma keeps people from getting
the treatment they need.
Premera is taking on this task because we
believe you are only fully healthy when physical and behavioral health are
integrated. Research shows that medical doctors and other healthcare
providers contribute to only 20 percent of a person's overall wellness,
leaving a large gap for addressing behavioral health.
We are grateful
for the enthusiasm we've received from stakeholders and partners since we
first started discussing our new program. We will continue to be dedicated to
working with them to foster healing for individuals, families and communities
across the areas we serve.
Paul Hollie leads Premera's Social