Peer-to-Peer Resources are Key in Fighting the Opioid Crisis
Jennifer Velez, Senior Vice President of Community and Behavioral Health at RWJBarnabas Health, joins Steve Adubato to discuss behavioral health; the environmental factors that can affect your ability to be healthy; and the importance of peer-to-peer resources in fighting the opioid crisis in New Jersey.
"Jennifer Velez, is Senior Vice President of Community and Behavioral Health at RWJBarnabas Health. Jen, good to see you. Good to see you too. Separate or... you know what? Clarify behavioral health, and then we'll talk about community health together. Behavioral health is someone's state of well being. Is it mental health? Right? It's mental health, it's substance use disorder, it's everything that involves the brain and emotion. But it's a disease. So mental illness is a disease. Substance use disorder is a disease. It's a disease like cancer, like diabetes, and we should treat it no differently than those. You know, we were at a forum, I was hosting a forum, and you were in the audience, but a key player in the audience, with the Mental Health Association of New Jersey. And I remember we did this. You said a disease just like cancer, just like some other terrible disease, to what degree do you believe the stigma still exists? Like, "No it's not. It's not really that." I think that stigma's probably one of the most pressing issues we have for people to access care as freely as they really need to. I think that... You mean they need it? They absolutely need it. And actually what you talked about, the forum that I last... we last were together, that was such a beautiful forum, because people were talking freely, openly, about, "I have mental illness. I suffer from whether it's simply depression and anxiety, or I have something much more serious, like schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder." So once we begin to treat that as the disease it is, or some combination, we'll really begin to get to somebody's whole health. A good example might be if you have a cardiac issue, you've had a heart attack, you've had cancer recently, there's a chance, a really significant chance, that you will also suffer from some depression that follows. Connected to it? Connected to it. But we'll deal with the cancer, you'll get that treated, you'll get the heart... You'll get that. And you'll leave... But... ...maybe not having your behavioral health, your mental illness, even assessed to see whether or not you're having any feelings of depression or anxiety. It is a spectrum. It is from one end of, you know, from one end of the spectrum to another, and I think we're comfortable talking about some aspects of it, but depression is more than simple sadness. And bipolar and schizophrenia is on the opposite end of the spectrum, and that seems very scary. But... It's so interesting, I'm sorry for interrupting Jen, I'm thinking about this..."