Landmark Ohio Study Will Evaluate Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Behavioral Health Care

The goal is to not only gather data but deliver actionable items to achieve equitable care

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Landmark Ohio Study Will Evaluate Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Behavioral Health Care
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Marginalized racial groups in Ohio face major health care challenges including higher rates of suicide and overdose death than their white counterparts. The first report of a landmark behavioral health study in state, released today, finds a lack of available data to quantify the disparities in access to behavioral healthcare and its effects and seeks to remedy the problem.

The ‘Behavioral Health in Ohio: Improving Data, Moving Toward Racial and Ethnic Equity’ study will “present original, Ohio-specific data about the racial and ethnic makeup of the behavioral health workforce, treatment provision, and a funding analysis for behavioral health programs and interventions,” in its remaining three reports, according to an executive summary.

Conducted by Central State University, the Mental Health and Addiction Advocacy Coalition, the Multiethnic Advocates for Cultural Competence Inc. and Ohio University, the study cites national research identifying stigma when seeking help for mental health or addiction, provider racial bias and lack of access to culturally competent care as ongoing problems for minorities.

“The first installment provides an overview of the issues. The second focuses on workforce, the third looks at treatment, and the fourth addresses funding,” said executive director of the Mental Health and Addiction Advocacy Coalition Joan Englund in a statement. “The findings from each one will provide stakeholders with essential resources for building a stronger, more equitable behavioral healthcare system in Ohio.”

In addition to recommending the improvement of data collection to establish a baseline for future intervention measurement and the establishment of a task force to hold stakeholders accountable, the report stresses the importance of ensuring that prevention, treatment and support are culturally competent.

“We want to ensure every Ohioan who needs mental health or substance use support is considered and has access,” said Tracy Maxwell Heard, executive director of the Multiethnic Advocates for Cultural Competence Inc. “And not just access, but access to care that provides the best chance for full recovery or the best possible outcome. That means making sure they feel seen and understood, which means seeing people who look like them among those providing the services, making sure the language barrier is addressed, and making sure there is an understanding within the workforce of the cultures being served.”

The first report also recommends working with the Disparities and Cultural Competence Advisory Committee and implementing the COVID-19 Ohio Minority Health Strike Force recommendations.

“We are hoping to come up with some actionable items that are based in data driven and evidence-based strategies that will help policymakers bridge the gap and get a little bit closer to achieving equity within the behavioral health system within Ohio,” said Central State University associate professor of psychology Omesh Johar.

The three remaining reports will be released individually throughout 2023.

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