GCB Director Jeff O’Neil Speaks at Congressional Briefing

Jeff O’Neil, Community Support Services Director for Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health Services (GCB), spoke on October 3 at a congressional briefing in Washington DC entitled “Mental Health Conditions and Obesity - A Path to Excess Mortality”.

The briefing, hosted by US Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), was presented to a group of approximately 100 officials and members of related advocacy groups. It was coordinated by Mental Health America, which assembled a panel of experts to speak on the issue of epidemic obesity and other chronic health issues among individuals with severe mental illness.

Julio Abreu, Senior Director, Public Policy and Advocacy for Mental Health America, said they selected O’Neil for the panel based on a recommendation from SAMHSA, the mental health arm of the Department of Health and Human Services, which is familiar with GCB because of its Holistic Health Project Cincinnati.

“Jeff did a great job of connecting the dots,” says Abreu, “There is a tremendous need for primary and mental health care to be integrated. The more we normalize behavioral health inclusively under one ‘shingle’, the more we reinforce the concept that there is no health without mental health.”

Recent studies showed that on average, people with serious mental illness die, on average, 25 years earlier than the general population, usually due to chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes.

In 2010, GCB received a $2 million grant from SAMHSA to launch the Holistic Health Project, which integrates mental and physical health services for its clients with severe mental illnesses. Some of the services include nurse care management, basic vital health screenings, peer support and referrals to its on-site Federally Qualified Health Care partner, The Healthcare Connection.

GCB Director Jeff O’Neil Speaks at Congressional Briefing
GCB Director Jeff O’Neil Speaks at Congressional Briefing

“Many [people with serious mental illness] may be unaware of their physical health due to their mental health symptoms, lack of experience or education,” says O’Neil. “Community Behavioral Health Organizations like GCB are well positioned to address these complex health issues and barriers by taking on responsibility for coordination of health care.”

Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health Services (GCB) is the most comprehensive mental health agency in Hamilton County serving adults with severe mental illness. It is a fully certified, nationally accredited, 501 (C) (3) nonprofit organization, recognized for the successful implementation of “Best Practice” programs and innovative services. GCB’s mission is to assist persons with mental illness to lead productive and fulfilling lives.