News & Announcements

No Shame Day: Working to Eradicate Mental Illness Stigma in the Black Community

Posted: July 02, 2012

It is the family folklore, whispered into humid huddles in the corners of summer reunions: She ain't been right since that no-count husband of hers left her; all she needs is a good man and she'll come back to herself. It's the code words, the shorthand, the oversimplification: Oh, he ain't never been quite right in the head. and "Something's" wrong with her. It's myth of the church-going cure: This ain't nothin' but a demonic attack and prayer can cast it out. It's the blame-placing and illogical advice: It's because she used to drink. If he stayed away from them drugs, his head would clear. Get saved. Eat better. Get a better job and be more self-sufficient. Forgive everyone who wronged you (Grudge-holding poisons the mind).

Our need for the first annual observation of No Shame Day on Monday, July 2 could be traced to any number of get-right-quick antidotes. Despite the growing number of mental illness diagnoses in the black community, many are loath to accept their legitimacy. According to the National Institute of Mental Health and the American Psychiatric Association, just one in three African-Americans who need mental health care receives it, and those who do are likelier to stop treatment early or receive follow-up care.

The Siwe Project, founded by Nigerian writer and mental health advocate Bassey Ikpi in memory of her teenage friend, Siwe Monsanto, is working toward providing that culturally competent care by instituting the first ever day international day of advocacy for people of color who are coping with mental illness and their family, friends, and allies.

No Shame Day encourages all those affected to share their personal stories about the various ways in which mental illness has affected their lives on The Siwe Project's official website, as well as on Twitter.

Those who intend to participate are being asked to provide only the parts of their experience that they feel comfortable sharing. At minimum, The Siwe Project asks that you answer the following: Who are you? What mental illness are you or your loved one living with? How were you or he/she diagnosed? What propels you to speak publicly about the illness? How are you or your loved one treating the illness (therapy, meds, support groups, exercise, etc) and what prompted you/them to seek treatment? In the interest of uniformity and solidarity, please begin and end your stories with "My name is ____, and I have No Shame." Participants who will be using Twitter as their chosen social media platform should include the hashtag #NoShame at the end of each related tweet. Raise your voice on July 2 in support of the first ever No Shame Day. July is also National Minority Mental Health Month.

Read more on the Huffington Post website. Visit The Siwe Project's official website.

Affordable Care Act: Supreme Court Decision Benefits People with Mental Illness

Posted: July 02, 2012

It is good news for people with mental illness and their families that the Supreme Court has ruled that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is constitutional. The benefits would have been greater if the court had not made expansion of Medicaid eligibility optional for the states. But even if some states choose not to provide Medicaid for more people who cannot afford health care or health insurance, millions of people without coverage or with inadequate coverage -- including people with mental illness -- will now be able to get the health and mental health care they need.

The ACA benefits people with mental illness in six major ways:

  1. It provides improved coverage of physical health care, which is extremely important to people with mental and/or substance use disorders.
  2. The ACA also provides improved coverage of mental health and substance abuse conditions. This is a major advance. Just three years ago, new federal laws required "parity" in the coverage of mental and physical health conditions in employer-based health benefit plans and Medicare, but the provisions were limited. The ACA carries these requirements forward and expands them considerably.
  3. The ACA also provides enhanced Medicare coverage of medication, including of psychiatric medications. 
  4. The ACA emphasizes the importance of integrating and coordinating the delivery of physical and mental health services and provides incentives to providers to integrate care.
  5. The ACA also emphasizes preventive interventions. For example, it provides Medicare payments for preventive health care and health promotion for the first time.
  6. Finally, the ACA emphasizes services in the home and community instead of in institutions. 

Read more on the Huffington Post website. Read the Affordable Care Act.



The NNED turns 5—Happy Birthday!

Posted: July 01, 2012

In 2007, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, with support from the NIH/National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, launched the National Network to Eliminate Disparities in Behavioral Health (the NNED). Since then, the network has grown to include over 1,300 organization and individual partners. 

The NNED has:
  • Convened 14 groups of community-based organizations (Learning Clusters) to address a shared priority issue and develop products on topics such as Parental Depression in Diverse Populations and Linking Faith-Based Institutions with Behavioral Health;
  • Offered 4 virtual professional development opportunities on specific promising practices (Bienvenido, Project Venture (offered twice), and Latino Multifamily Group Program) that can be implemented in diverse communities (Communities of Practice)
  • Provided 2 on-site opportunities for community leaders and providers to build skills in evidence-supported and culturally appropriate clinical, consumer, and organizational practices (NNEDLearn) with continued post-training follow up.
  • Disseminated information and resources through our interactive website, webinars, social media networking tools, and an electronic newletter. receives over 5,000 hits each month.

We know that the NNED has touched many communities, and we would love to hear your stories. Please share with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter.

LGBT Community still has Hurdles in Health Care Equality: Healthcare Equality Index Report

Posted: June 30, 2012

This year the Healthcare Equality Index, a report produced by the Human Rights Campaign that shows which hospitals and health care facilities score best on measures relating to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender patients, visitors and employees, is flashing some big numbers:

  • A 40 percent increase in the number of health care facilities volunteering to participate in the 24-question survey that makes up the Healthcare Equality Index.
  • A 162 percent increase in the number of health care facilities dubbed ‘leaders’ in LGBT heath care equality. Leaders, according to the report, are hospitals and facilities that meet practices and policies they consider to be “essential for equitable and inclusive LGBT care.” That means hospitals and facilities don’t discriminate against LGBT members as patients, visitors or employees.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that only 407 health care facilities in the U.S. participated in the Healthcare Equality Index (HEI), a voluntary survey that’s been around since 2007. It’s a big gain in respondents over previous years, but considering that there are more than 5,700 hospitals in the U.S., there’s still a ways to go. And there are 18 states in the U.S. with no providers that have participated in the HEI.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says while the report shines a light on facilities that are giving great service to the LGBT community there is more to be done. At a press conference at Howard University Hospital on Tuesday, Sebelius announced that HHS released a new progress report on LGBT health care in the U.S.

Last year Sebelius promised to incorporate the LGBT community into federal health care data collection — something the federal government hasn’t done before — and said questions addressed to the LGBT community will be “market-tested” before they will be finalized. This report is expected to address those data collection concerns. But the secretary says there are still barriers for the LGBT community: “Today LGBT Americans face numerous barriers to health from providers who just don’t understand their unique health needs, to difficulty getting health insurance because they can’t get coverage through a partner or a spouse. And unfortunately way too many LGBT individuals face discrimination and bigotry in the health care system.”

Lambda Legal's 2010 report based on the Survey on Discrimination Against LGBT People and People Living with HIV, shows that 73 percent of transgender respondents and 29 percent of lesbian gay and bisexual respondents said “they believed they would be treated differently by medical personnel because of their LGBT status.”

This year’s survey asked participating facilities about how and if they give their patients a chance to identify themselves as LGBT. More than 57 percent of participating health care facilities said they allow their patients to note if they are in a “non-state-registered same-sex partnership.” Furthermore, 9 percent of this year’s participants in the HEI noted that they offer a transgender-inclusive health benefit plan — something that is atypical for most U.S. health care plans.

Read more on the Kaiser Health News website. Download the Healthcare Equality Index report (pdf).  Download the HHS progress report on LGBT Health care (pdf). Download Lamda Legal's report -- When Health Care Isn't Caring (pdf).

Affordable Care Act’s Coverage Expansions will Reduce Health Insurance Disparity by Race/Ethnicity

Posted: June 29, 2012

There are large differences in US health insurance coverage by racial and ethnic groups, yet there have been no estimates to date on how implementation of the Affordable Care Act will affect the distribution of coverage by race and ethnicity. The authors used a microsimulation model to show that racial and ethnic differentials in coverage could be greatly reduced, potentially cutting the eight-percentage-point black-white differential in uninsurance rates by more than half and the nineteen-percentage-point Hispanic-white differential by just under one-quarter. However, blacks and Hispanics are still projected to remain more likely to be uninsured than whites. Achieving low uninsurance under the Affordable Care Act will depend on effective state policies to attain high enrollment in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the new insurance exchanges. Coverage gains among Hispanics will probably depend on adoption of strategies that address language and related barriers to enrollment and retention in California and Texas, where almost half of Hispanics live. If uninsurance is reduced to the extent projected in this analysis, sizable reductions in long-standing racial and ethnic differentials in access to health care and health status are likely to follow.

Read the full article.

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