CHOICES INTERVIEWED BY PEOPLE FIRST RADIO
ON MAY 26, 2011
Empowering people with mental illness who smoke
to become non-smokers
People First Radio spoke with Consumer Tobacco Advocate Yasmin Halim and Program Director Patricia Dooley of CHOICES, about our consumer-driven program for smokers with mental illness in New Jersey. The audio from that interview is now posted online, click on the following link to listen: http://www.columbiancentresociety.com/prfcontent/311_may_26_2011_sm.mp3
October 9, 2009
Smoking Cessation Program for Mental Health Patients
Honored by American Psychiatric Association
New Brunswick, NJ -- The division of addiction psychiatry at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School has championed efforts to reduce tobacco use among individuals with mental illness, a group estimated to consume nearly half of all cigarettes in the United States. Those efforts have received national recognition by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), which granted a Silver Achievement Award to the CHOICES program today at a ceremony in New York City.
CHOICES – Consumers Helping Others Improve Their Condition by Ending Smoking – employs peer counselors, called Consumer Tobacco Advocates (CTA), to promote smoking cessation in smokers with mental illness. The CTAs are nonsmokers or former smokers who are moderately impaired or disabled by mental illness. They receive 30 hours of intensive tobacco training and then reach out to their peers in mental health centers, psychiatric hospitals, group homes, and self-help centers. Their goal is not to provide treatment, but to assist and motivate their peers to address tobacco use by sharing their own experiences with quitting, providing educational materials, and linking their peers to treatment, referrals, advocacy and support for smoking cessation in New Jersey.
“Peers are less threatening than professionals,” said Jill Williams, MD, associate professor of psychiatry at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and co-founder and medical director of the program. “CHOICES symbolizes empowerment and personal choice in recovery by utilizing peer counselors to deliver the vital message to smokers with mental illness that addressing tobacco use is important to their health and to motivate them to seek treatment.”
By presenting the Silver Award, the APA honored CHOICES’ unique peer-to-peer grass-roots approach to promoting tobacco cessation. In its October issue of Psychiatric Services journal, the APA noted, “The CHOICES program exemplifies many aspects of a successful wellness and recovery initiative. For example, it targets a group with a vital health care need; seeks to reduce tobacco’s harm in a vulnerable group; focuses its efforts in the community, which best accommodates the target population; employs peers to reduce educational and cultural barriers; and develops successful partnerships with key stakeholders for sustainability.”
According to Dr. Williams and co-founder Marie Verna, the program’s advocacy director and senior training and consultation specialist at UMDNJ-University Behavioral Healthcare’s Center for Excellence in Psychiatry, the CHOICES team has conducted more than 280 community visits, reaching more than 9,600 smokers with mental illness, since the program’s inception in 2005. The team also participates in consumer conferences and health-related fairs.
In an outcome study of the CHOICES program, consumers that had met individually with a peer counselor for personalized feedback about their smoking experienced a significant decrease in the number of cigarettes smoked each day and an increase in the number of quit attempts. Many study participants reported that after meeting with a CTA they had talked to their mental health provider about getting help with quitting smoking. Participants also reported that the CTAs were extremely knowledgeable about tobacco and interested in their smoking. Seventy percent of those surveyed said that talking to a peer about their smoking was much easier than talking to a mental health professional.
The CTAs also reported that their experience of working with CHOICES has helped them achieve greater recovery in their own mental illness. Each has gone on to achieve personal milestones including participating in publications, statewide and consumer conferences on wellness and recovery and/or have gone on to seek additional formal education.
CHOICES is based in the department of psychiatry at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and partnered with the Mental Health Association of New Jersey, a consumer-driven mental health advocacy organization, and the New Jersey State Division of Mental Health Services, a primary source of funding for the program. CHOICES is listed as a best-practices resource in several national provider toolkits for the treatment of tobacco use in mental health settings, including those published by the Smoking Cessation Leadership and the Behavioral Health and Wellness Program of the University of Colorado in 2009. The CHOICES model is expanding beyond New Jersey to reach a larger audience of smokers. A multistate implementation of CHOICES is now underway on the West Coast.
CHOICES Receives AMA Grant Award
CHOICES received a $5,000 grant from the American Medical Association’s Foundation Fund for Better Health. The Fund for Better Health awards grants for grassroots public health projects that target the issue of healthy lifestyles in communities across the United States. This year’s focus was on programs that address: nutrition and physical fitness; alcohol, drug and smoking; and violence prevention. Due to rising printing and postage costs, this grant award will allow the CHOICES program to continue to mail our newsletters to our readers who do not have access to email.
September 14, 2008
Advocate is anxious to tell story of his mental illness
CHOICES Consumer Advocate, Eric Arauz, was interviewed by the Star-Ledger and the story was in the Sunday, September 14, 2008 I Am New Jersey Section of the newspaper. To read more, click on the following link: http://blog.nj.com/iamnj/2008/09/eric_arauz.html
July 7, 2008
National Mental Health Partnership for
Wellness & Smoking Cessation, Washington DC
Panelists for this historic in-service training included our very own CHOICES Advocate, Eric Arauz and Dr. Jill Williams. Click here to read more.
Congratulations to the CHOICES team! CHOICES is listed as a resource in the newly released guide, Bringing Everyone Along Resource Guide for Health Professional Providing Tobacco Cessation Services for People with Mental Illness and Substance Abuse Disorders, published by the Tobacco Cessation Leadership Network (TCLN). CHOICES is listed alongside organizations that are leaders in the field. The guide was “developed to assist an array of health professionals to adapt tobacco cessation services to the unique needs of tobacco users with mental illness and substance use disorders.”
Here are the links to the summary and
Guide (p.45): http://www.tcln.org/pdfs/BEA_Resource_Guide-web.pdf
As we approach our third anniversary it is gratifying to know that our work is now being recognized nationally as an important resource in addressing tobacco in the mental health community. Special thanks go to our Advocates who have worked tirelessly in reaching out to their peers, providing information, hope & support, and serving as role models in recovery.
June 11, 2007
Mental Health America
Honors Leading Mental Health Advocates for Service,
Innovation and Cultural Competency
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (June 11, 2007) — Mental Health America honored four mental health leaders for their dedication to improving the mental health of all Americans at the Closing Night Dinner of its Annual Meeting, Bringing Wellness Home, in Washington D.C. on June 9, 2007.
“These award winners exemplify the exceptional energy, commitment, dedication and creativity necessary to fight against mental health stigma,” said David Shern, Ph.D., president and CEO of Mental Health America. “Our four honorees today have greatly improved the lives of countless Americans through their tireless efforts to improve our nation’s mental health.”
Innovation in Programming Award — Mental Health Association in New Jersey and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey
Mental Health Association in New Jersey and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey received the Innovation in Programming Award for their CHOICES program. CHOICES is a consumer-driven initiative that strives to meet the needs of smokers with mental illnesses by increasing awareness of the importance of addressing tobacco use and by creating a strong peer support network that encourages mental health consumers to make a positive healthy lifestyle change by addressing smoking and tobacco use. Through its peer-to-peer approach, CHOICES has reached more than 2,000 people.
CHOICES is featured on Chiming In, the brand new podcast from Mental Health America - www.mentalhealthamerica.net/go/chimingin
An article about CHOICES, written by Dr Jill Williams, was published in the September issue of Psychiatric Services. Click on the link to read the article about the CHOICES Program.
Williams JM. Using Peer Counselors to Address Tobacco: the CHOICES Program. Psychiatric Services 2007; 58(9): 1225.