American Lung Association in Michigan Begins a New Project to Promote Tobacco-Free Living for Persons with Mental Illness in Northwest Michigan


Efforts Supported by Expanding Smokefree Communities, Community Transformation Grant Program...One of only five grants funded across the U.S.

Traverse City, MI – Because the prevalence of tobacco use for people with mental illness is two to three times higher than the average rate of tobacco use, the Lung Association in Michigan has received a Community Transformation Grant to partner with Northern Lakes Community Mental Health and other human service agency representatives from six northwestern Michigan counties—Crawford, Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Missaukee, Roscommon, and Wexford—to work on a groundbreaking 12-month project. The project's primary goals are to train local mental health professionals to better screen for tobacco use, to support and assist persons with mental illnesses to stop using tobacco, and to assist Northern Lakes Community Mental Health to accomplish its vision of becoming a tobacco-free culture.

"We are very pleased to have been selected by the American Lung Association to partner on this grant and to have been chosen as one of five grant sites in the country,” stated Greg Paffhouse, CEO of Northern Lakes Community Mental Health. “This project will help the people we serve live longer and healthier lives. Studies show that persons with serious mental illness live 25 years less than the general population, often because of tobacco-related health problems such as heart and lung disease, problems that can be avoided or managed by quitting tobacco.”

Involving the community is a crucial part of the project's effort. A Community Leadership Team has formed to help accomplish the project's goals with representatives from the following organizations: American Lung Association, Disability Network of Northern Michigan, District Health Department 10, Freed Communications, Goodwill Industries of Northern Michigan, Grand Traverse Community Collaborative, Grand Traverse County Health Department, Michigan Department of Community Health Tobacco Section, Michigan Association of Community Mental Health Boards, Northern Lakes Community Mental Health, Safe Harbor of Grand Traverse, and the Traverse Bay Area Tobacco Coalition.

“We have an obligation to assist people to make these life changes, especially since persons with mental illnesses represent an estimated 44.3% of the United States tobacco market and are nicotine dependent at rates that are two to three times higher than the general population,” stated Lisa Danto, the project's Community Team Leader, a nurse and Tobacco Addiction Specialist, who also serves as the Coordinator of the Traverse Bay Area Tobacco Coalition.

“There are many factors for why these rates are higher but, surprisingly, tobacco cessation efforts in this population can be effective. In fact, the percent of people who desire to quit is the same as in the general population. Our community is fortunate to have the opportunity to provide these important tobacco addiction services to such a high-risk underserved population,” Danto added.

Deb Freed of Freed Communications, part of the Community Leadership Team, has personal experience with cessation as well as helping people with mental illness in their quit efforts. She collaborated with Lisa Danto on a grant-funded smoking cessation pilot program at Northern Lakes Community Mental Health. “As a former smoker I know how difficult quitting can be and how much the people served by Northern Lakes Community Mental Health want to quit. I look forward to helping transform the public mental health system in this important way. It will definitely save lives,” said Freed.

“Having experienced the loss of a loved one who had a mental illness but who died due to her smoking, I know personally how important it is that we help people who have a mental illness stop smoking,” explained Shelly Kiser, Project Supervisor, and the Director of Advocacy for the American Lung Association in Michigan. "We’re very thankful to have the funding available to help save lives in Michigan.”

Financial support for the American Lung Association in Michigan’s Community Mental Health Tobacco Project is coming from the American Lung Association National Office’s Expanding Smokefree Communities, Community Transformation Grants (CTG) program. The project was one of five chosen this year, from all over the country, to receive funding through the American Lung Association’s CTG program. Over 40 grant proposals were submitted.

In September 2011, the American Lung Association was funded by the National Dissemination and Support Initiative of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention’s CTG program. The “Accelerating the Spread and Reach of CTG Strategies in Communities Nationwide” Activity Area involves mobilizing national networks, like the American Lung Association, to increase the reach of the CTG program by empowering communities to implement projects proven to reduce chronic diseases. Tobacco use is a key driver of many of these chronic diseases.

"If this project is successful, there is interest to replicate this program in other communities in Michigan and in other states across the country,” Kiser stated. “The American Lung Association in Michigan looks forward to working in northwestern lower Michigan in order to reduce tobacco-related disparities among persons with mental illness.”

About the American Lung Association in Michigan

In communities throughout Michigan, the American Lung Association is working to improve life one breath at a time with education, advocacy and research. The American Lung Association in Michigan is funded by public donations, along with gifts and grants from corporations, foundations, government agencies and non-governmental organizations. From tuberculosis to asthma, tobacco control to clean indoor and outdoor air, the lung health successes achieved during the American Lung Association’s century of service have been gained only because of the work of thousands of committed volunteers, dedicated staff and generous supporters.

About Northern Lakes Community Mental Health

Northern Lakes Community Mental Health Authority is contracted by the Michigan Department of Community Health to provide and contract services for adults with mental illness, persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and children with serious emotional disturbance, as defined by the Michigan Mental Health Code, in six counties. As Northern Health Care Management, the organization coordinates the Home and Community Based Services for the Elderly and Disabled MI Choice Waiver Program in ten counties. Northern Lakes CMH also provides Mental Health First Aid and other educational trainings for the community.






There are currently no comments

New Comment


required (not published)




Disability Network Northern Michigan

415 E. Eighth St.
Traverse City, MI   49686

Phone: (231) 922-0903

Accessibility Statement

Disability Network Northern Michigan is committed to making its website accessible to the widest possible audience. This website has been developed to comply under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which was enacted to eliminate barriers to information technology, to make available new opportunities for people with disabilities and to encourage the development of new technologies to help achieve these goals. This law requires that all individuals with disabilities have access to information and data comparable to that which is available to individuals without disabilities. is regularly monitored to ensure that it meets the requirements of Section 508, along with the best practices outlined by the W3C’s (World Wide Web Consortium’s) Web Accessibility Initiative, specifically WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) Level A Compliance. We are diligently working to reach and maintain a higher standard of accessibility, which is Level AA Compliance of W3C’s WCAG standards. Because technology changes rapidly, this is an ongoing process.

If you experience any accessibility issues in relation to this website, please contact us. Let us know which page or item you need help with and we will provide a solution that works for you within a reasonable period of time. Questions, comments or complaints about the accessibility of our website, videos or documents can be sent to