The Medical Director's Desk
APA Uses Multiple Strategies To Eliminate MH Disparities
Psychiatric News
Volume 40 Number 14 page 4-4

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 rural areas.

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!▪

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