Alabama Department of Mental Health will be tobacco free

Press Release

MONTGOMERY, AL – Effective January, 4, 2010, the Alabama Department of Mental Health will become tobacco-free at all inpatient psychiatric facilities and grounds. Tobacco products will not be allowed on campus by patients, visitors, staff, vendors, students, or any other individuals. This includes all ADMH Mental Illness Division buildings, grounds, parking lots, driveways, and vehicles. Patients will be provided nicotine management services while in ADMH inpatient facilities, and tobacco cessation will be encouraged following discharge.

Studies show that persons with serious mental illness live 25 years less than the general population, mostly because of common health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension. Many of these health problems can be avoided or managed with a combination of medication and healthy lifestyle choices. ADMH Commissioner John Houston said, "As a health care organization, ADMH is committed to the health and safety of our patients and employees. Therefore we have developed a comprehensive health initiative that focuses on reducing this excess burden of chronic health diseases. We believe that we have the responsibility to take a leadership role on this major health issue. Part of this comprehensive health initiative is the new tobacco-free policy."

In the United States, persons with mental illnesses represent an estimated 44.3% of the tobacco market and are nicotine dependent at rates that are 2-3 times higher than the general population. Tobacco-free programs have been implemented in other state mental health systems throughout the nation with great success, and tobacco-free psychiatric hospitals are shown to improve the quality of life for both patients and staff.

An effort has been underway for several months to develop a facility smoking cessation plan. Included in this effort are communication strategies to alert patients, their families, employees, contractors, visitors, and other stakeholder groups about the new policy. Additionally, ADMH has been offering smoking cessation education and whatever supports necessary including medically supervised nicotine replacement, medications, support groups, and access to the Alabama Quitline (1-800-QUIT-NOW).

"Our goal is to return 25 years of life to the people we serve," said Commissioner Houston. "Since smoking remains a leading preventable cause of death in the United States, ADMH feels it is essential to take this step toward providing better health and a better quality of life to the community it serves."

For additional information regarding the ADMH tobacco-free policy, please contact the Office of Public Information and Community Relations at 334-242-3417.

Source: Alabama Department of Mental Health