Impact: Behavioral Health Series

Issue #1; February 25, 2005

“Part of Every Agenda”

While mental illness and substance use disorders are healthcare issues, they take their toll in many other ways—ways that might not be readily apparent. Each and every Connecticut citizen is affected. We as taxpayers, family members, neighbors and friends are each impacted, every day.  

Mental illness and substance use involve the complex interplay of health, economic and social issues in our state, cities and towns. Aside from the personal tragedies inflicted on individuals and families, from a monetary standpoint, mental illness and substance abuse are among the most costly problems to the people of Connecticut. Collectively, the direct and indirect costs of these disorders to Connecticut’s taxpayers are staggering, totaling billions of dollars in lost productivity and expenses across all levels of government as well as businesses, large and small. They can have significant impact on:

  • Child welfare and family preservation
  • Education from pre-school through college
  • The prosperity of our cities and towns
  • Homelessness
  • High healthcare costs
  • Business productivity and profits
  • The vitality of our labor force
  • Courts, prisons and public safety systems

 The issues are so pervasive that it is hard to think of an area of everyday life that is not affected.    

To be successful, business and government administrators strive to be effective, efficient, and value-driven. If sufficient attention is not paid to managing mental health and substance use issues, we will never be fully successful in achieving those standards.  

I believe a colleague said it best a few years ago when, in the course of speaking about the breadth of these healthcare issues, he commented, “substance use and mental health need not be the agenda; they must be part of every agenda.”  

The Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) is the Connecticut state agency responsible for adult behavioral health prevention, treatment and recovery support systems and services. However, many other agencies and systems in the public and private sectors are also significantly involved with issues directly or indirectly related. 

Over the next week, I will shed light on some of the specific areas where mental health and substance use play a crucial role. My objective is not to make behavioral health “the agenda.” Rather, it is to help examine the impact of behavioral health outside of its traditional context as a “DMHAS issue,” making it part of the foundation—or woven into the fabric of every agenda. There are compelling reasons to clarify the connections between behavioral health and these other important areas. Healthy families, thriving communities, successful businesses and a bright future for Connecticut depend upon it. 

Comments are welcome at

The effects are far reaching, the societal burdens are high, the call to action is clear.

/ Impact Index 2005 /