After six years of meetings and surveys and trial balloons, Kansas Citians
were ready to tell their story about the success of the Community Initiative
on Depression in Kansas City. More than 250 people—including
representatives from two-dozen employers based in cities such as New York,
Chicago, Atlanta, and Minneapolis—met in Kansas City in late March to
hear the story.
Two events were held. The first, the Town Hall Meeting on Depression
sponsored by the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, drew more than 200
people on March 29 to learn how Kansas City—based companies, including
Sprint and Cerner, were addressing depression in the workplace.
The following day APA and the American Psychiatric Foundation's National
Partnership for Workplace Mental Health hosted the National Invitational
Conference in collaboration with the Mid-America Coalition on Health Care,
which had launched the Kansas City depression initiative in 2000. APA sent out
40 invitations to the conference and quickly had to compile a waiting list,
according to Clare Miller, director of the partnership.
"These two events were spectacular successes," said Norman
Clemens, M.D., chair of the APA Committee on Business Relations. "Not
only was APA in the game," he said, "we moved the ball
significantly down the field. Kansas City has a model that could work for
communities across America."
Joining Clemens in the conference were Marcia Goin, M.D., immediate past
president of APA, and Stuart Munro, M.D., chair of the department of
psychiatry at the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Medicine and
medical director for the depression initiative.
APA and the National Partnership for Workplace Mental Health have been
involved with the Kansas City project for three years.
"Early on," said Irvin (Sam) Muszynski, J.D., director of the
APA Office of Healthcare Systems and Financing, "APA recognized the
potential of the Kansas City project. We were particularly impressed with the
community's commitment and the outstanding staff and leadership of the
William Bruning, J.D., M.B.A., president of the Mid-America Coalition on
Health Care, said simply, "We couldn't have done it without
The coalition's depression initiative represents a collaboration of 14
Kansas City employers and the stakeholders in the region's health care
delivery system, for example, clinicians, health plans, hospitals, state and
local administrators, educators, and researchers.
The effort is unique in two ways: it is the first communitywide initiative
undertaken to address undiagnosed and untreated depression, and it brings all
stakeholders to the table to address the problem.
"If there's one thing we have learned," said Bruning,"
it's that employers need to understand the enormous cost of depression
in the workplace. Once employers understand what undiagnosed and untreated
depression is doing to their bottom line, business becomes the engine for
change since they're the major purchasers of health care in the
By June, 12 Kansas City employers will have rolled out their version of a
depression initiative in their companies. (See APA's newsletter
MentalHealth Works, first quarter 2005, for a description of Sprint's
roll out. The newsletter's Web address appears at the end of this article.)"
By anyone's standards, that's a success," said Muszynski.
The coalition also worked with primary care physicians (PCPs) and insurers
to correct the misperception that PCPs would not be reimbursed by third
parties if they identified and treated patients for depression in their
"If psychiatrists work with PCPs to improve referral patterns, this
effort will help solve an access problem for patients and eventually could
lead to better care," said Clemens.
As communities such as Atlanta and New York City prepare to replicate parts
of the initiative, APA is poised to help. "We hope the Kansas City
experience will be a springboard for other cities," Muszynski said.
Bruning seconded the idea. "A major goal for the coalition at this
point is to work in partnership with APA to formalize a national network of
other communities interested in replicating the initiative," he
Thomas Carli, M.D., director of the Depression Center Workplace Initiatives
at the University of Michigan Health System and a conference participant, also
suggested that APA might serve as the of best practices to which employers and
health plans could turn.
"The richness of the dialogue throughout the day was impressive and
exciting," said Goin.
Kansas Citians know they did something right. A reporter writing in the
Kansas City Star about the initiative observed that it is not often
that New Yorkers look to the Midwest for advice, but in the last week in March
they did just that.
Highlights from the Town Hall Meeting on Depression and the National
Invitational Conference will be available later this year.
More information about the Mid-America Coalition on Health Care's
Community Initiative on Depression is available by contacting William Bruning
by phone at (816) 753-0654 or by e-mail at
More information about APA's business initiative is available by contacting
Miller by phone at (703) 907-8673 or by e-mail at
The APA newsletterMentalHealth Worksis posted at<www.workplacementalhealth.org>.▪