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Bridgehaven Launches Smoking Cessation Program for the Mentally Ill

Mental health officials say patients with mental illness make up about 7% of the country’s population, but consume about 40% of tobacco products sold. A Louisville organization is launching an effort to reduce the disproportionate smoking rate.Bridgehaven Mental Health Services has designed a smoking cessation program specifically aimed at helping those with mental illness. Clinical Director Barbara Hedspeth says it’s the first program of its kind in the U-S.She says officials knew they had to take action when they saw statistics showing that many mentally ill citizens are dying at a relatively young age from smoking-related illness."These deaths are occurring two times as often from cardiovascular disease," says Hedspeth, "three times as often from respiratory disease, and three times as often from cancer."She says decades ago, smoking was used as a reward in behavior modification practices at mental health facilities. Now, many patients are addicted and feel quitting may make their mental illness worse.Hedspeth says under the new program, called SUCCESS, those who participate will attend two support groups weekly."One group will focus on the health aspects of smoking, the other will focus on managing emotions, anxiety, feelings… the things that intimidate mental health consumers and keep them from trying a smoking cessation attempt," says Hedspeth.The program has funding for one year from an $82,000 grant from the American Legacy Foundation.