Mental Health Parity for African-Americans? Not even close...

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“Historically, what has happened is African Americans are given more institutionalization and drugs as the treatment of choice as opposed to therapy,” said Thomas A. Parham, a past president of the National Association of Black Psychologists. Parham, who also serves as vice chancellor for student affairs and an adjunct faculty member at UC Irvine went on to say, “You tend to have misdiagnosis because clinicians are not culturally competent. It diminishes confidence in the mental health system. It’s not all a function of the mental health system being unavailable; people also make deliberate decisions not to access it because they don’t trust them.”

This telling commentary and a host more are starkly illustrated in an excellent article by Bernice Yeung in In the article, Yeung analyzes the results from a California state-commissoned report as part of a study on African Americans mental health disparities which is one of five state-commissioned demographic-specific studies conducted as part of the California Reducing Disparities Project. The five reports that make up the project will be compiled into a statewide strategic plan that will inform how the state will spend $60 million in funds earmarked to address mental health disparities.


  1. William E.P. McMiller, MD MPH's avatar
    William E.P. McMiller, MD MPH
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    Not much has changed since the psychological defense argued in 1954 Brown vs. Board Of Education nor since I published in 1995 statistical proof of child mental health help-seeking disparities in several California clinics. But then again, not much was expected to change. We must unite with mothers and grandmothers
    to change their and their children's attitude before the child reaches school age. We must connect the mental health dollar to education and job rehabilitation where African-Americans can best benefit and are motivated to use services to serve their 'bottom line'. The diagnostic problem (under-diagnosed, over-diagnosed, inappropriately diagnosed, or never had a chance to be diagnosed), is linked to health financing and billing problem. There's little chance for changing the disparity problem without fixing this "resistant to reform" dollar problem.
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