Neglected and Underserved: Promoting Mental Health Equity in Marginalized Communities

Neglected and Underserved: Promoting Mental Health Equity in Marginalized Communities

Awareness of mental health care as a key component of holistic health is increasing. Despite this, the lack of access to appropriate care and the stigma around talking about our mental health remain.

In particular, Black, Indigenous, and other people of color—as well as LGBTQIA+ populations—face stigma, structural barriers, and other unique challenges in accessing quality mental health care. It is crucial that we continue to highlight these struggles and recognize how programs are leveraging education, understanding and advocacy to extend quality mental health care to communities that have long been neglected and underserved. .

A 2022 CVS Health and Morning Consult survey found that more than half of Americans (56%) agree society has become more comfortable engaging in discussions about mental health since the pandemic began. of COVID-19. Yet members of marginalized communities have historically faced discrimination that impacts their mental health and often find the conversation particularly difficult to join.

Those willing to talk about their mental health with a professional might struggle to find a healthcare provider who understands their experiences and what it will take to meet their needs. In fact, Hispanics make up about 10% of psychologists in the United States, and less than 5% of psychologists across the country are African American or black. When underserved groups do not see healthcare professionals who are like them or who understand their unique experiences and needs, the system can be difficult to navigate and it can be difficult to build trust, resulting in less participation. taking care.

Another obstacle often encountered is the cost of care. Half of respondents surveyed in CVS Health’s 2022 Health Care Insights Study expressed moderate to high concerns about the costs associated with doctor’s office visits, including co-payments. Among people who identified as Black or Hispanic, cost concerns were more prevalent: Six in 10 people who identified as Black or Hispanic (60% and 58%, respectively) said the cost of care was a moderate to high concern. Income and insurance coverage, mobility, work schedules and lack of childcare are factors that could prevent marginalized patients from receiving the mental health care they need.

Given the barriers they face, it’s no surprise that members of underserved populations experience disproportionately poor mental health outcomes. The CVS Health/Morning Consult analysis found that 57% of people who identify as LGBTQIA+ expressed concerns about their mental health, which is 20 percentage points higher than adults overall. Additionally, for underserved populations, mental health issues increase. For example, Black Americans surveyed have seen an 11 percentage point increase in mental health issues since the pandemic began.

Educate patients and professionals

Fortunately, several sectors of the US healthcare system are working to expand access to mental health resources to underserved populations. Successful mental health programs are rooted in the common threads of education, understanding, advocacy and support. For example, CVS Health’s Here4U program is a virtual peer support group facilitated by a licensed clinician that can be tailored to specific populations such as young adults, parents, and Black and LGBTQIA+ communities. Through the program, participants can discuss life challenges, pressing issues, and events or changes at home with their peers while learning new skills to improve their mental well-being.

However, it is not just about educating people struggling with mental health issues. We also need to educate the clinicians who treat patients, as they often play a vital role in helping Americans manage their mental health. With this in mind, Aetna has introduced a series of four continuing education courses for behavioral health professionals to increase their cultural and linguistic competence. Through training and education, these providers can better equip themselves to identify mental health risk factors and engage in proactive, personalized treatment for their patients.

Empowering people through access

According to data from the Health Resources and Services Administration, more than 150 million Americans live in areas where mental health care providers are scarce. As part of its health equity strategy, CVS Health aims to address mental health disparities by providing underserved communities with access to the mental health care services they need.

We understand that convenient access is integral to positive mental health outcomes. That’s why some CVS Health MinuteClinic locations nationwide currently have licensed mental health providers on-site, in addition to physicians. As a result, approximately 82% of patients report a reduction in depression symptoms after making more than one visit with a therapist in these selected locations.

Move forward with empathy and fairness

We all have different mental health needs, just as we have different physical health needs. Some populations face distinct challenges in receiving the proactive and effective mental health care they need due to different social determinants of health. We must all work to create initiatives that focus on understanding-based education and advocate for the empowerment of a health care system where everyone has a fair and equal chance to be in as good health as possible.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Director of Health Equity at CVS Health

Cara McNulty, DPA, President of Behavioral Health and Mental Wellness at CVS Health.

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