Navigating Dual Challenges: Addressing the Common Concurrence of IDD and Mental Health Conditions

Written by: Martha W. Lantz MSW, MBA, founder of Lantz Healthcare Consulting

This past year I have had the privilege of working with Laura Baker Services Association to help develop behavioral health services for individuals with an intellectual/developmental disability (IDD) and significant behavioral problems. As I began this process, I had several revelations.

My first revelation was: what an amazing organization Laura Baker Services Association is! Their rich history of work with individuals who have very complex needs is remarkable. Their commitment to those they serve – their clients, their families and their communities – is undeniable. And LBSA is embracing its many opportunities for growth and moving forward in this vast changing healthcare arena.

My second revelation was – wow, why haven’t I heard of anyone addressing the needs of this population (IDD and mental health conditions) before? In my 35 years working in the mental health arena, both here in Minnesota, as well as in other states, I was surprised by the fact that there is little connection/intersection between the mental health world and the IDD world, in terms of support services available. Studies show that as many as 40% of people who have been diagnosed with an intellectual or developmental disability also have a diagnosed or (more likely) undiagnosed mental health condition – sometimes referred to as IDD/MI. That is a rate that is two to three times higher than that of the general population.

Addressing the Need for Behavioral Support Services

In connecting with key constituents, including consumers, families, Rice County, the Northfield School District, Northfield Hospital, the Department of Human Services, advocates, health plans and more, we have learned that there is indeed a great need to understand what issues are faced by individuals with both IDD and mental health conditions, and those that care for this population. We also researched who is currently serving this population, and what the services available currently look like. What became quickly apparent is that there is great need for these services and a lack of providers who understand this population, and really, that there are currently no targeted services available for these specific populations.

We recognized that treatment practices have not really been designed to attend to the needs of those with IDD who live with a serious mental health condition. In too many cases, the focus of treatment has been more on controlling challenging behaviors as opposed to understanding the possibilities of an underlying mental health condition, and thereby reducing the likelihood of recovery from the specific mental health condition(s). Typical mental health treatment programs/interventions have not been designed with this population in mind, either.

Developing a Holistic Care Model

As we looked to design these new services, we focused on creating a comprehensive model of consultation/care that has roots in both the world of mental health and IDD – an integrative, holistic model, involving strategies like positive behavior supports. When we talk about holistic care (treating the whole person), what does that mean for this population that intersects between two separate systems of care?

Critical areas we addressed in our model creation include prevention approaches as well as early intervention and crisis management. It is a model that focuses on assessment, training, and consultation for those that are current caregivers, teachers, and other professional staff so that those key relationships are still the primary source of intervention, versus someone new coming in and trying to insert themselves into the situations. The model/service is also designed to be long-lasting – we will stay with the client/family/system for as long as is needed. These two primary aspects of LBSA’s Behavioral Support Services make it unique within the current continuums of care, and it has the potential to be highly successful for all involved.

I look forward to 2024 and seeing the fruits of all of our labors as we work to make the state of Minnesota a better place for those who experience significant challenges due to IDD and concurrent mental health conditions.

More Information and Support

Laura Baker Family Navigation Services offers free consultations and can discuss a wide variety of services and help you decide what aligns best with your family’s goals. Schedule your consultation now, or contact us to learn more about Behavioral Support Services.

About the Author

Martha Lantz MSW, MBA, founder of Lantz Healthcare Consulting, is a seasoned leader with proven experience in developing and implementing community-based initiatives that achieve positive results. She is experienced in the operation of successful non-profit organizations and governmental relations, and has a strong record of strategy formulation, program design, business development, systems thinking, and evaluation of innovative, real-world solutions in the social service arena. She is a builder of successful collaborations and partnerships and has a passion for helping to create healing spaces within housing and landscaping projects, where neuroscience and architecture meet.

Prior to founding her consulting practice in 2017, Ms. Lantz held leadership positions with Touchstone Mental Health as Executive Director and the Human Services and Public Health Department of Hennepin County, where she managed strategic planning and contracting for Behavior Health Services. In addition, she has held leadership roles at Family Networks, Inc., and DePelchin Center/Houston Child Guidance, as well as providing child and adolescent therapy services. She was also a founding member of the Minnesota Community Healthcare Network.

Ms. Lantz holds a master’s degree in business administration from the Carlson School of Management University of Minnesota as well as a master’s degree in social work from the University of Houston. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas.