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Home > Research Articles > NMHA Issues Challenge to President's Mental Health Commission


Sunday, August 11, 2002

NMHA Issues Challenge to President's Mental Health Commission

End Systemic Discrimination in Public Mental Health Services

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (August 8, 2002) - In testimony given today, NMHA President and CEO Mike Faenza challenged the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health to end systemic discrimination in public mental health services. NMHA believes that to effectively treat all mental health consumers, they must have access to culturally appropriate services that take into account language barriers, cultural differences and diverse beliefs, values and sexual orientations.

"It is time for America's mental health system to go beyond the rhetoric and understand that "consumer oriented" necessarily means "culturally appropriate," said Faenza. "Unfortunately, the discrimination and misunderstanding that result from cultural incompetence within the delivery system erects barriers to service. As a result, many diverse groups with mental illness are left untreated or inappropriately treated."

Key recommendations:

Address the over-representation of youth of color in juvenile justice systems. In addition, youth with mental disorders should be diverted to the mental health treatment system. Enact administrative policies that address cultural competency issues for all juveniles and adults who fall under the jurisdiction of the federal corrections system.

Reach out to ethnically diverse audiences with national campaigns designed to help eliminate stigma, and provide education about treatment and recovery. Increase the number of mental health professionals from diverse backgrounds. In addition, train all mental health professionals in cultural competency, regardless of their cultural backgrounds.

Promote research and clinical trials that include diverse populations to better understand the prevalence of mental disorders and the most appropriate treatments within these groups.

Establish federal guidelines and best practice solutions for cultural competency in mental health programs. Faenza provided NMHA's Cultural Competency in Mental Health Systems position statement as a list of best practices.

The National Mental Health Association is the country's oldest and largest nonprofit organization addressing all aspects of mental health and mental illness. The NMHA works to improve the mental health of all Americans through advocacy, education, research and service. For more information, visit www.nmha.org.