While there have been substantial advances in mental health treatment in
recent years, one area in which we still have a lot of work to do is in
eliminating the disparities that often characterize the care received by those
who are members of racial or ethnic minority groups, are elderly, or live in
A large portion of the 46 percent of Americans who suffer from a mental
disorder at some point in their lifetime but receive no or inadequate
treatment are in one or more of these population groups. Several years ago, in
response to a national challenge to help reform and repair the nation's
crumbling mental health system, APA unveiled a blueprint for mental health
care titled "A Vision for the Mental Health System." This
blueprint includes the principle that mental health care should be patient and
family centered, community based, culturally sensitive, and easily accessible
without discriminatory administrative or financial barriers or obstacles.
The Office of Minority and National Affairs (OMNA) has responded to the
blueprint by developing various strategies to eliminate mental health care
disparities and implementing recommendations in APA's "Action Plan to
Reduce Mental Health Disparities for Racial and Ethnic Minorities."
OMNA's mission—to meet the professional needs of minority
psychiatrists and improve the quality of care for underserved people—is
being fulfilled through new strategic plans under the leadership of Annelle
Primm, M.D., M.P.H. Thanks to OMNA staff and APA minority councils, caucuses,
and committees, our members are able to expand their reach into communities
across the country through new initiatives to increase diversity in the
psychiatric workforce; inspire and recognize minority psychiatrists and those
from underrepresented groups; and serve as a clearinghouse for information on
mental health care disparities.
Here are just a few examples of how OMNA is working on behalf of our
members and the communities we serve.
I encourage every APA member to ask: "What can I do to make a
difference in these communities?" You can make a difference by, for
example, supporting an OMNA event in your community and by volunteering to
serve as a mentor to a minority medical student or resident. Members who are
black, Asian American, Hispanic, American Indian/Alaska Native/Native
Hawaiian, international medical graduates, women, or gay, lesbian, or bisexual
may choose to join one of the APA minority caucuses representing the concerns
of these groups.
As your Association, we value your ideas, support, and membership!▪