I’m a big fan of the Sunday talk shows — it’s what I do while eating breakfast and scanning the headlines on my iPad. Unlike most of commercial television, the ads featured during the Sunday morning time slots tend to be aimed more toward business leaders and professionals. A recent ad comes to mind as I read the 2016 American Hospital Association Environmental Scan.

In a commercial for one of the big consulting/accounting firms, a man in a white coat (likely the hospital’s chief medical officer) walks through a door with two associates. They are discussing a possible merger with a behavioral health practice. The CMO asks, “What is so wrong with just … being a hospital?” After one of the associates points out that integrated services mean more, and better, services, the other associate notes that behavioral health is a huge need, “for this population especially.” After that, of course, is the pitch for the consulting/accounting firm’s services.

This year’s AHA Environmental Scan amplifies many of the issues that have been discussed in H&HN and Trustee — including behavioral health. The Environmental Scan contains three illuminating statistics as to why this fictional conversation is becoming a reality for many hospital leaders:

  • Individuals with mental illness are among the highest-need, costliest patients in the U.S. health care system.
  • Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide.
  • A large proportion of primary care interactions involve mental health concerns.

Further proof that behavioral health is becoming a high priority can be found in a recent HFM Daily blog. As HFM Associate Editor Jamie Morgan notes in her article, early results from the 2016 Hospital Construction Survey indicate that, “behavioral health is the No. 1 focus for specialty hospital construction projects going into the new year.” Last year, 21 percent of respondents said that they had a behavioral health project on the boards, which put it at No. 2, according to the article.

Behavioral health is also the focus of an app being introduced this week in Chicago. The app, designed in conjunction with the Illinois chapter of the Kennedy Forum, is designed to “connect Chicago residents with mental health and addiction resources.” The Kennedy Forum was founded by former Rhode Island Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who has struggled with behavioral health issues in the past. If you’ve never had a chance to hear him speak on mental health and addiction treatment, watch him on YouTube. The passion with which Kennedy speaks about the need to take the stigma away from these illnesses is moving.

It’s always been true that treating the mind is just as important as treating the body — it’s just that there is a renewed appreciation for that fact these days. Just as our fictional CMO discovers during the commercial, treating behavioral health illnesses is vital to having a positive impact on the health of a community or population.