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City Bans Smoking at Psychiatric Hospitals

Philadelphia (December 14, 2015) – Starting today, smoking is officially prohibited at each of the city’s 14 acute inpatient psychiatric hospitals, which every year treat thousands of people who have a serious mental health condition. Individuals admitted for psychiatric treatment – voluntarily or involuntarily – are no longer permitted to smoke cigarettes or use any other tobacco products during their stay including e-cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco.

Community Behavioral Health (CBH), the nonprofit that administers behavioral health services for the city, has added a provision to each hospital’s provider contract requiring them to maintain a tobacco-free treatment setting for psychiatric inpatients who typically remain hospitalized for 10 days. The new provision impacts more than 10,000 city residents covered by Medicaid, thousands more throughout the region covered by other forms of insurance and also applies to hospital staff.

The policy is a direct response from the city to a mounting body of research showing that smoking disproportionately affects people with mental health challenges. Multiple studies show that people living with a mental health condition consume up to 50 percent of all cigarettes sold in the United States; have a smoking rate that is 70 percent higher than the general population; and live, on average, 25 years fewer than the rest of society mainly because of tobacco-related respiratory and heart conditions.

“We have a moral imperative to reduce this significant health disparity for our most vulnerable treatment population,” said Dr. Rose Julius, deputy chief medical officer for adult services at CBH. “The idea that quitting smoking will worsen psychiatric symptoms is one of several myths that have created a harmful treatment environment in which those with mental illness are less likely to be advised to quit smoking, offered assistance with quitting or counseled about the negative health effects of smoking.”

Psychiatric hospitals affected by the policy provided input and partnered with the city throughout the entire two-year planning process. Three had already been operating under their own no-smoking policies for psychiatric units. Up next, officials say, is a policy that prohibits smoking at Philadelphia’s drug and alcohol addiction clinics, which total more than 100 in number.

“We do everything we can to help people overcome mental health challenges, drug addiction and alcohol dependency and it is critical that we also help these same individuals avoid dying prematurely from smoking,” said Dr. Arthur C. Evans, Jr., commissioner of the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services. “Our mission of improving health outcomes for people necessitates that we address the issue of smoking and its detrimental impact on behavioral health populations. We look forward to engaging our drug and alcohol providers and partnering with them next.”

In addition to prohibiting smoking and all forms of tobacco use, CBH’s contract provision requires psychiatric hospitals to incorporate smoking cessation into their treatment programs for Medicaid recipients. CVS Health provided a $25,000 community grant to support the initiative.

“As a pharmacy innovation company, we are committed to building healthier communities and helping people lead tobacco-free lives,” said Eileen Howard Boone, senior vice president of corporate social responsibility and philanthropy at CVS Health. “We are pleased to support the work Community Behavioral Health does in the community in the area of smoking cessation and we look forward to helping them advance their mission.”

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s Smoke-Free Philly campaign helped inspire the formation of the new policy and its goal of ultimately reducing smoking rates among Philadelphia’s mental health population. “

While smoking rates among Philadelphians with mental health conditions have declined in recent years, they continue to remain higher than among all adults in the city,” said Dr. James Buehler, health commissioner for the City of Philadelphia. “We applaud Community Behavioral Health for requiring tobacco-free policies in inpatient psychiatric settings. This new policy will ensure that people who are in treatment for mental health conditions and have either quit smoking or are trying to quit are not placed in an atmosphere that makes that difficult task even harder.”

Click here for a complete list of the psychiatric hospitals affected by the policy.