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New Jersey Youth Get Rapid Access to Mental Health Services.

Program Addresses Delays Faced by Low-Income Families,

Extends Company's Commitment to Addressing Disparities in Mental Health

PRINCETON, N.J. -- Children and adolescents from low-income households who need mental health care in New Jersey often face delays of weeks or even months for treatment. Now, a new program by a state behavioral health organization is promptly providing these youths the help they need.

The Rapid Access Program, created by the Association for the Advancement of Mental Health (AAMH) in Mercer County with a grant from Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY), is making it possible for youths in need of help to get off the waiting list of an overburdened health care system and into treatment.

Under the Rapid Access Program, individuals ages 5-21 who are referred for mental health treatment are evaluated by a social worker within three days of a treatment request and, if needed, start seeing a psychiatrist within seven days of the social worker's evaluation.

This fast-track care is making a difference in the lives of area youths who previously faced waiting lists of two months or more for mental health services, said Vince Haba, executive director of AAHM, a non-profit, behavioral health center serving Mercer, Middlesex and Burlington counties in New Jersey, and Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

"For children and adolescents referred for mental health care, every moment counts. Research shows that, the longer the wait for treatment, the less effective treatment becomes. The Rapid Access Program reduces wait times dramatically and offers a cost-effective model for providing timely mental health treatment for children of low-income families."

The Rapid Access Program was launched in September 2008 with a $68,887 grant from Bristol-Myers Squibb. The grant helps AAMH provide a social worker, care by board-certified child psychiatrists, and supervisory and administrative support. Client Medicaid reimbursements provided additional funding and should be sufficient to sustain the program, Mr. Haba said.

"Bristol-Myers Squibb is committed to helping reduce health disparities around the world, including in the communities where our employees live and work," said Sharon Henry, M.D., vice president, Global Medical Affairs and Health Outcomes. "The Rapid Access Program is one of many mental health initiatives we support that are helping eliminate barriers to care to support people in leading healthier, more fulfilling lives."

Mental health problems among today's youth are increasingly well-documented. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services estimates that mental health problems affect one in five young people at any given time. Access to mental health services, however, is largely a tale of two systems: the privately funded system of health insurance and private payers, and the resource-limited publicly funded system.

Individuals covered by health insurance and those whose families pay directly for their care have many options for mental health services and can get an appointment with a professional within a few days, Mr. Haba said. That quick evaluation is vital: 80 percent of youth who receive prompt evaluations follow through with a course of treatment.

The publicly funded system, in contrast, is characterized by long waiting lists for treatment for youth referred by school counselors, family doctors and social service agencies. Wait times of eight weeks are typical in Mercer County and only 30 percent of youths who face such delays follow through with a course of treatment, Mr. Haba said.

Services provided through the Rapid Access Program include a psychosocial evaluation and assessment; individual, group and family psychotherapy and counseling; substance abuse treatment; psychiatric evaluation and assessment; psychopharmacological management; case management services; and emergency appointments.

Other recent grants provided by Bristol-Myers Squibb and the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation to reduce treatment disparities in mental illness include:

* Capital Health System and Henry J. Austin Health Center, Trenton, NJ

A grant from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation seeks to integrate behavioral health counseling and treatment into the delivery of primary care for disadvantaged populations in Trenton, NJ. Primary health care providers at the center are trained by Capital Health System psychiatrists in behavioral health screening and treatment, while psychiatrists see patients in a primary care setting.

* School-Based Youth Services, New Brunswick, NJ

Funding from Bristol-Myers Squibb has enabled New Brunswick Tomorrow, a nonprofit civic improvement organization, to expand and strengthen mental health services for children who attend the city's public schools. The School-Based Youth Services Program provides comprehensive treatment for mental health issues for students and their families, as well as other services and activities designed to help vulnerable children succeed in school.

* Alabama Coalition for a Healthier Black Belt

This program serves patients with serious mental illnesses in Alabama's impoverished Black Belt region by enhancing community mobilization and education, developing integrated mental health and primary health care services, and expanding access to expert psychiatric care to community mental health centers through telemedicine.

* New York State Office of Mental Health Research Foundation for Mental Hygiene

A grant from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation is helping the New York State Office of Mental Health Research Foundation for Mental Hygiene develop, implement and evaluate a model for "stepping down" some patients with serious mental illness who are experiencing recovery from high-intensity services in outpatient settings provided by Assertive Community Treatment teams to a less intensive package of services reflective of the patient's recovery.

* Mind Matters: Boys and Girls Clubs of New Jersey

Bristol-Myers Squibb supported the creation of a program designed to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. The Mind Matters program, which is being implemented at a number of Boys and Girls Clubs in New Jersey, seeks to demystify and reduce the stigma associated with mental illness, and empower children to seek help when needed.

Bristol-Myers Squibb is a global biopharmaceutical company whose mission is to extend and enhance human life. For more information visit www.bms.com.
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Publication:Business Wire
Date:Dec 12, 2008
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