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Removing Obstacles To Eliminating Racial And Ethnic Disparities In Behavioral Health Care

Affiliations
  1. Margarita Alegría ( malegrí[email protected] ) is a professor of psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and chief of the Disparities Research Unit, Department of Medicine, at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), both in Boston.
  2. Kiara Alvarez is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Disparities Research Unit, Department of Medicine, at MGH.
  3. Rachel Zack Ishikawa is project director in the Disparities Research Unit, Department of Medicine, at MGH.
  4. Karissa DiMarzio is a research assistant in the Disparities Research Unit, Department of Medicine, at MGH.
  5. Samantha McPeck is a research assistant in the Disparities Research Unit, Department of Medicine, at MGH.
PUBLISHED:No Accesshttps://doi.org/10.1377/hlthaff.2016.0029

Despite decades of research, racial and ethnic disparities in behavioral health care persist. The Affordable Care Act expanded access to behavioral health care, but many reform initiatives fail to consider research about racial/ethnic minorities. Mistaken assumptions that underlie the expansion of behavioral health care run the risk of replicating existing service disparities. Based on a review of relevant literature and numerous observational and field studies with minority populations, we identified the following three mistaken assumptions: Improvement in health care access alone will reduce disparities, current service planning addresses minority patients’ preferences, and evidence-based interventions are readily available for diverse populations. We propose tailoring the provision of care to remove obstacles that minority patients face in accessing treatment, promoting innovative services that respond to patients’ needs and preferences, and allowing flexibility in evidence-based practice and the expansion of the behavioral health workforce. These proposals should help meet the health care needs of a growing racial/ethnic minority population.

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