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Advocacy Groups Aim To Tackle Mental Health, Heart Issues Among Those With IDD

Advocacy Groups Aim To Tackle Mental Health, Heart Issues Among Those With IDD

A new effort from The Arc of the United States and the United Health Foundation will offer resources to support people with developmental disabilities and mental health issues. (iStock)

National developmental disability advocacy groups are inking multimillion-dollar partnerships with some big players in health care in a push to better address co-occurring conditions.

The Arc of the United States said it will work with the United Health Foundation, the philanthropic arm of UnitedHealth Group, to improve mental health for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Through a $2.5 million, three-year deal, 10 chapters of The Arc will receive $100,000 grants to establish solutions specific to those in this population. The effort will include increasing access to mental health services, enhancing coordination between disability and health systems, public awareness campaigns to ease stigma and misconceptions as well as training for more than 2,000 providers and caregivers to help them understand the mental health needs of people with developmental disabilities, according to The Arc.

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Ultimately, the goal is to reduce the number of mental health crisis incidents experienced by people with developmental disabilities, officials said.

“People with intellectual and developmental disabilities face barriers from the moment they are born, which can have a direct impact on their mental health,” said Katy Neas, CEO of The Arc of the United States. “But too often, their mental health needs are going unmet due to stigma, lack of training and biases. This generous investment by the United Health Foundation gives us a path to tackle this mental health crisis head-on by providing critical training to all who interact with our community — medical professionals, caregivers, first responders, educators, families and more.”

As part of the program, grants will go to The Arc of Arizona, The Arc of Loudoun in Virginia, The Arc of Macomb County in Michigan, The Arc of Mississippi, The Arc of Oklahoma, The Arc Oregon, The Arc Prince George’s County in Maryland, The Arc Rhode Island, St. Louis Arc and Sertoma Star Services in Illinois.

Meanwhile, a separate partnership between Autism Speaks and the American Heart Association will put $2 million toward research on cardiovascular and brain health in people with autism through pre- and post-doctoral fellowship awards.

“Research suggests autistic people are more likely to have poor cardiovascular health compared to the general public. We need to know why and make sure people with autism have access to the same high-quality care as the rest of us,” said Andy Shih, chief science officer at Autism Speaks.

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