Study notes mental health, addiction issues

WOODSTOCK – Access to mental health and addiction services was rated poorly in a McHenry County study released this week.

This study is the third study commissioned by the McHenry County Department of Health, area hospitals and other providers to look at quality of life and health issues in McHenry County.

“We presented the data. They pick the priorities,” said Deborah Lischwe, associate director of Health Systems Research at University of Illinois at Rockford.

Lischwe’s team conducted the study, using online and paper surveys, interviews of key players and other public data.

The data will be used – as the data from studies in 2006 and 2010 was used – by the county and other providers to develop priorities and strategies going forward.

A past study highlighted a lack of knowledge of the area’s services leading to the creation of the 211 referral service, which offers a database of 400 providers. The studies also led to initiatives to combat obesity and improve cardiovascular health.

This study notes a “dramatic rise” in the rate of drug overdose deaths since 2006 with the county’s rate jumping above the state and national rates for 2009 and 2010.

The rate for deaths connected to drug or alcohol use has also doubled in the county since 2006 with the rate above the state’s in 2010, according to a presentation on the study.

The number of suicides also reached a record number in 2010, and the county’s suicide rate is above both the national and state averages.

“Mental health and substance abuse is huge,” McHenry County Health Department spokeswoman Debra Quackenbush said. “Those need to be addressed. They have been, but we need to continue.”

The study results are on the agendas for several upcoming meetings, including the McHenry County Board of Health and the Mental Health Board’s Network Health Council, she said.

Members of these boards and organizations will have to tackle complex issues, including educating the public about what services are available, getting into pockets where there aren’t services and addressing transportation issues.

“There are a lot of hurdles that we need to overcome,” Quackenbush said.

The study, though, should help address one issue. Being able to show evidence will help the county apply for grants that will bring money into the community.

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