5Q: Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long, chair of Behavioral Health Commission

The General Assembly recently launched the Behavioral Health Consortium to develop an action plan for substance abuse and mental health treatment. We talked with Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long about the effort’s progress so far.

What are some of the gaps addressing the addiction epidemic and mental health issues in Delaware?

In Delaware, we have a taken a number of steps in recent years to reduce overdose deaths and expand services for those struggling with addiction and/or mental illness. However, much of what has been done has been somewhat siloed and not coordinated. The goal of the Behavioral Health Consortium is to bring all of the major stakeholders together and create a unified short-term and long-term strategy that makes an immediate impact in Delaware, but also puts us ahead of the curve for future epidemics that may occur.

What are the expectations for health care providers in Delaware, including hospitals?

We are working in unison with them to figure out how we increase access to services, reduce wait times and keep people in treatment longer. We know that when someone is ready to receive services, we cannot wait. We need to have the resources available for them as quickly as possible, and make sure they can stay in treatment for as long as needed.

Where does the business community fit into these efforts, particularly in hiring practices as it relates to people emerging from addiction or seeking treatment for mental health disorders?

As I travel up and down the state, I often meet recovering addicts who have transformed their lives and started successful businesses, or went on to work for someone else. There are also Delaware businesses that partner with providers to offer job opportunities for those in treatment or coming out of treatment.

What about best practices in the business community like corporate policies or benefits that are helpful to those struggling with either of these issues?

It’s important to remember that these issues affect all backgrounds, races, and ages. When members of the business community are able to help support those who have struggled with addiction or mental illness, it goes a long way toward improving the individual’s life, and also benefiting the company.

What are some of the consortium’s action items this year?

We know that we must work immediately to save lives and reduce the rising overdose fatality rate. We are still losing too many of our family, friends and neighbors. We must also work quickly to expand resources for those who are in the midst of a mental illness or addiction. In some areas of the state, there just aren’t enough places for people to go, and people don’t know where to turn.

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