Since 2014, the Louisiana Department of Health’s Well-Ahead Louisiana initiative and Office of Behavioral Health (OBH) have partnered to address tobacco use in the behavioral health population. The partnership has allowed for better data collection that shows a large percentage of callers to the Quitline also have a mental illness.
In turn, this information resulted in a proposal from Well-Ahead to OBH to use that program’s tobacco tax funding to support and sustain the Quitline.
The Supporting Data
In order to enhance data collection of smokers with behavioral health conditions, the staff with the Louisiana Quitline began asking callers if they suffered from any mental illnesses, such as an anxiety disorder, depression disorder, bipolar disorder, alcohol/drug abuse, or schizophrenia.
The idea for surveying callers was to determine if there was a correlation between smoking and mental illness.
We collected this data over a one-year period beginning July 1, 2015. The results showed that 42.7 percent of callers (3,000 people) to the Louisiana Quitline have at least one behavioral health condition. This is more than the nationwide rate of 33.3 percent of adults who use tobacco and also report a mental illness.
Statistics also show that people living with mental illness or a substance use disorder account for 25 percent of the adult population, but they consumed 40 percent of cigarettes sold in the United States.
Sustaining the Louisiana state Quitline has been a top priority of Well-Ahead. The Quitline ensures that a basic level of cessation service is in place to support national and state interventions likely to increase interest in quitting tobacco.
With partners from the Tobacco Coalition, Well-Ahead began to strategize on opportunities to improve the funding stability of the Quitline. Well-Ahead developed a partnership plan that focuses on enhancing referrals to, funding for, and reimbursement of Louisiana Quitline services.
A funding proposal was submitted OBH that included the data of Quitline callers who indicated
They suffered from any mental illness, and requested funding for the Quitline via the tobacco tax proceeds. The proposal was accepted and the state’s Quitline services were sustained without
a break in coverage. A memorandum of understanding between the two agencies has been developed so that the Louisiana Quitline can be sustained through this partnership in following years.
Other Tools to Combat Tobacco Use
The Quitline is just one tool used by Well-Ahead over the past several years to help Louisiana achieve significant advances in tobacco control. Other strategies have included:
· Local municipalities passing clean indoor air ordinances.
· Media campaigns, including the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “Tips from Former Smokers” (TIPS) campaign.
· Community outreach through the Well-Ahead Louisiana WellSpot Designation Program. This outreach encourages hospitals, schools, worksites, and healthcare settings to implement healthy environments and policies, such as comprehensive tobacco-free campuses and promotion of cessation services.
The result of these efforts have been a drastic increase in the number of callers to the Quitline. Specifically, the Quitline call volume during the first four months of fiscal year (FY) 2016 trended 21 percent higher in volume as compared to the previous year. Furthermore, this trend increases substantially during the TIPS campaign.
Our state’s Quitline has seen an approximate increase of 300 percent in calls when CDC launches this campaign. The increase in call volume has led to the full expenditure of dedicated Quitline contract funds by the third quarter of the contract term in both FY 2016 and FY 2017.