News & Announcements

Community-Defined Solutions for Latino Mental Health Care Disparities

Posted: July 05, 2012

Lahi Moheno holds what some would call health retreats for farmworkers in the San Joaquin Valley. There, she pulls workers aside for a forum on health education – mental health, really – without ever using such loaded terms as las enfermedades mentales, Spanish for "mental illness." Moheno, an activist who holds a master's degree from the University of Texas, knows well her audience and how to reach it. "When I talk to them in forums, or out in the fields, I don't use words like 'mental health,' " Moheno said Monday. "I say, 'Are you interested in having a better life, a life of tranquility?' I had to change my wording in order to reach people."

Moheno's story nicely illustrates lessons learned in a landmark, two-year research study conducted in 13 cities throughout California and unveiled Monday by the UC Davis Center for Reducing Health Disparities. The study, released at UC Davis' Mind Institute in Sacramento, takes a long, hard look at current best practices, based on evidence, and how well they translate in California's growing Latino communities, projected to comprise 52 percent of the state's population by 2050. The report, called Community-Defined Solutions for Latino Mental Health Care Disparities, provides a catalog of sorts for what works in reaching Latinos. The list highlights a smattering of programs throughout California, such as those using schools, churches, community centers and other grass-roots gathering places to talk to Latinos about what can help reduce the disparities.

The short answer: Western medicine's best doesn't seem well tailored to reduce mental health care disparities in Latino communities, a stubborn problem in which the population has been underserved and lacking quality care for decades. According to Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, the study's lead author and director of the health disparities center, up to 75 percent of Latinos who do seek mental health services opt not to return for a second appointment. Cultural, social and language barriers are too high to surmount. The report, based on input from more than 550 Latinos, including some in Sacramento, found that the current workforce of psychologists and psychiatrists is ill-equipped to penetrate the disparities and bridge the cultural gulf.

More needs to be done to reach out to communities on their terms, including recruiting and training more Latino mental health professionals. Stigma and shame over mental health issues are enough to stop some Latinos from seeking assistance, the study's authors said. And without someone to speak to in a shared language, reticence can become more acute. Moheno, for example, said two or three people in her large family experienced mental health issues. "However, we couldn't always find doctors. The family was a little embarrassed in this situation," Moheno said. "My mother said, 'No espanol, no sabe nada,' or 'If they don't know Spanish, they don't know how to take care of him,' " Moheno said of an ailing sibling.

Indeed, the report recommends that since Latinos do access health care through primary-care facilities, primary- care doctors should consider taking on the task of mending the mental health care gap. The key is in getting feedback and suggestions from the ground level up vs. from a top-down Western medical model.

Read more on the Sacramentoo Bee website. Read the full report (pdf).


Rehabilitation and Counseling Program for Homeless with Mental or Drug Abuse Problems

Posted: July 03, 2012

Panhandle homeless with mental or drug abuse problems will be able to improve their lives and integrate with the community thanks to a new program the Texas Panhandle Centers will be offering. They're partnering with the city of Amarillo and all its shelters to make this outpatient treatment program successful.

Diane Gilmore with Amarillo Downtown Women's Center says, "This has been long time coming. And all of the shelters are very excited. Because we know if someone goes through a 30 day residential treatment program, that they're going to have a better chance of making it work with our program. And their opportunity for staying clean and sober will increase tremendously."

Substance abuse and mental health go hand in hand. And they're the number one reason people are homeless in our country and community. The 30 day outpatient program will offer psychiatric and crisis services as well as life skills training during the day. Then at night the homeless return to an area shelter.

They hope Amarillo will also be able to provide its own residential treatment program, for people who can afford it, in the near future. Texas Panhandle Centers Director of Planning and Public Information Jim Womack says, "We also hope to partner with other agencies, maybe integrated healthcare in the future. Just address the whole person not just specific issues because that way if we're addressing all the issues. Be gainful employed, be back in a home instead of being out on the streets."

Read more on the WorldNow website.

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.

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