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NYC Health Department Launches Campaign to Encourage Primary Care Providers to Screen and Treat for Depression

The NYC Health Department has launched a campaign to expand the screening and treatment of depression in primary care settings. This initiative is part of the Health Department’s efforts to prioritize awareness and services around mental health and builds on the significant actions of ThriveNYC, led by First Lady Chirlane McCray, to reduce stigma and close treatment gaps for mental health in New York City. As part of the campaign, Health Department representatives are conducting one-on-one visits with more than 160 primary care practices in East and Central Harlem, North and Central Brooklyn, and the South Bronx. Providers will learn how to ask patients about common symptoms of depression; identify risk factors for depression, such as pregnancy or a recent birth, losing a job, or a family history of depression; talk to their patients about treatment options for depression; and help their patients come up with an action plan for lifestyle changes and self-care. Providers will receive a Depression Action Kit containing clinical tools, provider resources and patient education materials.

“Primary care providers are in a unique position to screen for depression,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray. “Depression, like other illnesses, benefits from early detection. Encouraging primary care providers to screen and treat depression will make mental health care accessible to more New Yorkers, and patients will have healthier outcomes if the link between physical and mental health is addressed.”

“This campaign encourages primary care providers to not only regularly screen their patients for depression, but to manage their treatment as well,” said Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “Integrating depression screening and treatment into routine primary care can increase New Yorkers’ comfort level for discussing this often sensitive topic.”

One in 12 adult New Yorkers has depression – more than half a million adults – and nearly 60 percent of them have not received treatment in the past 12 months. Nearly one in three adults with a chronic illness, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, also has depression, which can contribute to and worsen the course of chronic disease and is associated with poor medication adherence.

“Physical and mental health aren’t separate in our patients, so why treat them separately?” said Deputy Commissioner Dr. Sonia Angell. “Adults with chronic diseases like hypertension and diabetes are two to three times more likely to report being depressed than others. This detailing campaign gives primary care providers effective strategies to care for their patients, body and mind.”

“Depression is the leading cause of disability attributable to any illness in NYC – it kills and destroys lives,” said Executive Deputy Commissioner Dr. Gary Belkin. “Often, depression isn’t readily treated in the places people prefer to go, like primary care. Built on the key elements of evidence-based ‘Collaborative Care,’ this toolkit adds to the options ThriveNYC is advancing in how the health system takes on mental health.”

“Mental health impacts each of us, and I commend the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene on today’s effort to expand screening and treatment of depression among primary care practices in East and Central Harlem, North and Central Brooklyn, and the South Bronx,” said Rep. Adriano Espaillat (NY-13). “Individuals seeking help for mental health issues should be encouraged along their journey to recovery and treatment. We are making tremendous progress in getting individuals the help that they need, and I remain confident that by working together in unity, we will end the stigma of mental health once and for all.”

“It is vital to shatter the stigma surrounding mental health,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. “Providing a resource for mental health does not come secondary to overall wellness. I appreciate the NYC Health Department for tackling matters like depression screening and treatment in communities such as Brownsville, which have been often looked over in the conversation on mental health.”

“Mental health is equally as important as physical health and needs to be prioritized alike. According to the National Network of Depression Centers, depression is the leading cause of disability among young adults in this country. I encourage primary care providers to screen for and treat this serious illness,” said Senator Roxanne J. Persaud.

“Mental health and the lack of support for mental health has always been major concern for myself and for many of the residents in Brownsville,” said Assembly Member Latrice Monique Walker (D-55). “I applaud the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for taking the lead in the fight to combat depression by launching this campaign to encourage primary care providers to screen and treat for depression which will lead to more conversation about mental health in communities around New York City.”

In November 2015, the City launched ThriveNYC, a set of 54 initiatives to change the conversation and stigma surrounding mental illness and provide greater access to mental health care. New Yorkers with depression can contact NYC Well for free and confidential support at any hour of the day in over 200 languages by calling 1-888-NYC-WELL, texting “WELL” to 65173 or going to nyc.gov/nycwell. NYC Well will make connections to effective treatment options for depression. In addition, anyone can take a free Mental Health First Aid course to learn how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental health challenges, including depression. The 2018 report on depression among adults is available online.

About the Author

New York Trend is a weekly news publication that focuses on issues and lifestyles of the African & Caribbean American communities throughout the New York metropolitan area and Nassau and Suffolk Counties of Long Island. It is a respected and well recognized news publication that has been in existence since 1989. Owner, Publisher and Executive Director, Dr. Teresa Taylor Williams has been at the helm of this award-winning publication since its inception. New York Trend continues to be the only black woman-owned, metropolitan newspaper in New York and Long island. New York Trend is the largest black-owned newspaper throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties.

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