"Southern Wisconsin Conference on Mental Health" will be held on Sept. 19 at the Pontiac Convention Center to raise awareness of a lack of mental health providers in light of a growing need for services.
The cost for the event is $100 for the general public, and $150 for those wishing to claim continuing education credits. Registration for the event is at www.healthnetrock.org. People can call 608-314-1923 with questions or to purchase tickets.
"It's a first rate conference for caregivers, community stakeholders and mental health professionals or healthcare professionals in general," said Executive Director of HealthNet Ian Hedges.
One of the featured speakers for the conference is Patrick Kennedy, a former Rhode Island Congressman who was the lead champion in the U.S. House of Representatives for bringing mental health and addiction equity in insurance plans. He authored, "Common Struggle," a New York Times Best-Selling autobiography about his personal and political struggles surrounding mental illness as well as his private addiction to prescription painkillers.
Chair of the American Medical Association's Board of Trustees, Dr. Patrice Harris, will be speaking about the opioid epidemic and the medical community's response.
Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) will be speaking about mental health reform in Congress and his bill, Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, which just passed the U.S. house and is awaiting debate and approval in the U.S. senate.
The conference will cover the latest in mental health programming and strategies to serve more people suffering from mental illness and addiction. It will focus on topics such as mental health stigma, tobacco cessation among those with mental illness, cultural competency in mental health settings, suicide prevention and responses to the opioid epidemic.
"We are seeing persistent mental illnesses in the patients we serve. As a leading nonprofit organization providing healthcare in the county, we felt it imperative to provide awareness of mental health issues to the community," Hedges said.
Psychiatric conditions are also the leading cause of hospitalization in Rock County excluding childbirth, according to the 2014 Health Needs Assessment published by the Rock County Health Department. The assessment found more than 6 percent of respondents reported being diagnosed with a mental illness within the past two years, and of this group, and nearly one-third believed they were unable to access the care they needed.
The State of Wisconsin and the federal government have designated Rock County as a mental health provider shortage area. According to an assessment in 2012 by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, it was determined that Rock County would need 10.2 psychiatrists to address its mental health provider shortage — one of the highest numbers in the state.
Also, within the last year, HealthNet was awarded a grant by the Women's Fund of the Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin to implement integrated behavioral health care through its primary care nurses and doctors at its medical clinic.