He who laughs, lasts

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May 6 at the Broadmoor, Jay Leno makes an appearance at the Pikes Peak Foundation for Mental Health “Humor is Healing” fundraiser.

Jay Leno is one of many who tout the benefits of laughter. On May 6 at the Broadmoor Hotel, Leno will provide a night of laughter to benefit the Pikes Peak area children, adults and families who need behavioral health services.
It’s the fourth Pikes Peak Foundation for Mental Health “Humor is Healing” fundraiser – billed by its sponsor, the Pikes Peak Behavioral Health Group, as a “night of comic relief that’s serious about behavioral health care.”
The event is in conjunction with May’s designation as National Mental Health Awareness Month.
“We think (“Humor is Healing”) is fitting,” said Morris Roth, president and chief executive officer of Pikes Peak Behavioral Health Group. “We started the push and emphasis on humor because we felt it was really good for the community to come together and have fun while we got the message out that there is hope for people who have mental illnesses and for their family members.
“This year, we’re excited to have Jay Leno. There’s a lot of energy in our community around bringing Leno to town. It’s an honor to bring a celebrity to the Springs.”
Pikes Peak Mental Health is the “flagship” organization of Pikes Peak Behavioral Health Group, Roth said. PPMH has been serving the community since 1875. “We’ve clearly been a player in the community for a long time,” he said.
That role is vital in the community as PPMH statistics show that one in five Coloradoans need mental health services each year. The responsibility in meeting those needs is falling on individual communities. According to PPMH, the state has reduced its funding for mental health and substance abuse by 30 percent over the last three years, despite a growing population and the number of uninsured in the state nearing 700,000. Rising insurance costs also have placed a burden on mental health services.
Roth said that cuts in Medicaid and Medicare are making it difficult as well. “In the last 12-month period, we served 3,500 individuals who couldn’t pay,” he said. “At the same time, the state has funded us for less than 500. Our commitment is to assist people however we can and to get them the resources we can. We try to consistently get the message out to the local community.”
The statistics support the importance of the message. PPMH serves about 12,000 people each year from El Paso, Teller and Park counties.
Statistics also support the importance of mental health services to industry.
The International Labor Organization reports that clinical depression is the most common illness affecting working adults. Major depression, which affects about one in 10 American adults, is the leading cause of disability in the United States.
Depression impacts the business bottom line. The ILO estimates that depression costs the nation between $30 and $44 billion, with about $200 million in lost work days annually.
While the need is there – in the workplace and in the home – a barricade other than a lack of funding and increasing health care costs still exists: the stigma associated with mental illness. But Roth said, as more people are diagnosed with mental illnesses, there is more awareness. “We have made progress in the last five years,” he said. “But we have a long way to go.”
Meanwhile, PPBHG is making its own progress in the community with two other member companies. Aspen Diversified Industries serves disadvantaged and disabled people with career opportunities, and Workout Ltd. assists the youth through development programs, such as work restitution, drug and alcohol treatment and public works.
In 2005, PPMH was the only behavioral health care organization in Colorado accredited by the Joint Commission Accreditation Health Organization. PPMH was the only behavioral health organization in the nation to receive the Ernest Amory Codman Award in 2005. The award recognizes excellence in the use of outcomes measurement by health care organizations. PPMH received the award for its role in establishing the Harbor House program, which addresses substance abuse issues in the community.
“We definitely have an interest in being relevant to the community,” Roth said.
The “Humor is Healing” fundraiser is Saturday, May 6, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Broadmoor Hotel. Tickets for dinner and Jay Leno are $150 and available online at www.ppbhg.org or by calling 719 572-6141.