HAZARD — On Friday, Kentucky River Community Care (KRCC) kicked off their tobacco-free initiative at their facilities. KRCC serves eight counties in the state and employees hope that by having tobacco-free facilities will help stop the link between mental illness and tobacco use. For one Perry County KRCC employee, Friday was also his first step towards a tobacco-free lifestyle.
Statistics show that nearly 25 percent of the adult population in the United States is living with a mental illness or substance abuse disorder, yet those same adults account for smoking 40 percent of cigarettes. There are 443,000 deaths each year from smoking, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports. Close to half of those deaths are people with mental illness and/or substance abuse disorders.
The KRCC Board of Directors passed the tobacco-free policy in Janurary and nicknamed it “KRCC and Me Going Tobacco Free.”
The tobacco-free policy does not completely eliminate tobacco usage from KRCC facilities. There are designated smoking areas in each facility and smokers are also allowed to smoke in their car.
“We are not trying to force anybody to quit, we are not telling them that they have to or that you have to quit in order to come to KRCC. We just want to encourage them to consider quitting using tobacco,” said Program Director of Community Relations Mindy Miller
Each KRCC facility has information that can help their clients quit smoking, if they so choose.
Miller said that KRCC is currently gauging the interest of level of clients who want to quit smoking or using tobacco products.
If there is enough interest, Miller said that KRCC will try to have tobacco groups and educational classes that will help their clients quit smoking.
For Tim Deaton, a member of the Community Relations Department, this was his chance to begin a healthy lifestyle and show support for what KRCC is trying to do.
“It’s been intense,” said Deaton of his first day of quitting smoking.
Deaton has smoked for 17 years. He started smoking because a lot of people around him smoked and when he attended college, he started smoking more frequently because of stress.
“It was a prime opportunity for me to quit,” said Deaton of the tobacco-free policy being implemented by KRCC.
Deaton said that he wouldn’t feel comfortable going out and promoting that KRCC is trying to promote a healthy lifestyle and then outside to smoke a cigarette.
He said he currently doesn’t have a strong urge to smoke, but he is afraid of planning some events in the coming months that could be stressful.
“When I get into stressful situations, that is when I’m really going to start to worry,” said Deaton.
Deaton said that his friends and coworkers have been supportive of his decision to quit smoking.
“Everyone has just known me as a smoker, but seeing something different is exciting to them,” said Deaton.
KRCC understands that clients with mental illness and/or substance abuse disorders tend to develop a tobacco addiction more than those with no mental illness. They hope by having a tobacco-free policy, it will encourage clients to quit and help stop the link between mental illness and tobacco-usage. KRCC wants to focus on the physical well being of their clients, along with their mental well being.
TJ Caudill can be reached at 606-629-3245 or on Twitter @TJHazardHerald.