Another Major Pledge to Rationalize Treatment for Mental and Behavioral Health Issues

We've noted in several stories recently that mental and behavioral health causes and organizations have been logging some substantial gifts, evidently reflecting a broader recognition that one of the most widespread health problems can't continue to be one of the most underfunded.

It's worth repeating a couple of points about mental and behavioral health: An estimated 20 percent of people will suffer some kind of psychiatric or behavioral health issue in their lifetime. In fact, the World Bank says that by 2030, depression will become our most costly healthcare issue. 

The Colorado-based Anschutz Foundation is the latest grantmaker to invest heavily in mental health, last week announcing a $10 million gift to the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus to set up a new center called the National Behavioral Health Innovation Center. Anschutz Foundation has already given the CU medical center more than $90 million, but this five-year commitment is one of the institution's largest program pledges.

Anschutz Foundation has been around since 1984. It had over a billion dollars in assets in a recent year, with a big portion of its grantmaking going to Colorado causes. It now gives millions annually to education, youth causes and human services.

Though physically housed at the university's Aurora, Colorado, campus, NBHIC will also be a virtual center, both for the state of Colorado and the whole country. The goal is to make and accelerate significant progress on these hard-to-treat health issues, seeking innovative approaches to prevention, identification and treatment.

NBHIC says it will engage top people in diverse industries in Colorado and nationally to identify high-value opportunities for new approaches in behavioral health. It will also identify subject matter experts and assist in building community and organizational partnerships.

In ways subtle and not-so-subtle, mental health problems, including addiction, haven't always been addressed as health problems, but as something somehow differenteven as weaknesses in character. That's a stigma the new NBHIC will work to change.

"Our vision for the NBHIC is to build a model for how people who suffer from mental illness or substance abuse should be treated as part of the health care continuum,” said the center's newly named executive director, Matt Vogl, in a press release.

The center will work toward the elimination of dated prejudices regarding mental health and substance abuse issues to improve early identification of problems and broaden access to high-quality treatment.

This collaborative approach to mental and behavioral health bears watching. Although mental and behavioral health science is poised to advance, as a result of new understanding of the brain afforded by new technology, these problems are not likely to be cured with a pill anytime soon. So the development and dissemination of best practices will need innovation clearinghouses like CU's NBHIC.