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Bridging the Gap: Disparities in Mental Health Care for African-Americans

(Courtesy: African American Health Institute San Bernardino County)

(Courtesy: African American Health Institute San Bernardino County)

African-Americans in California are less likely than white people to get the mental health care they need. State public health officials have lacked a good road map on how to change those disparities, until now. A statewide study released today looks at ways to reduce disparities in mental health care for black Californians.

The report, commissioned by the California Department of Mental Health, sifted through more than a decade of literature on why African-Americans in California aren’t getting adequate mental health care. A major reason is poverty and all of the barriers to getting health care that come with it.

Diane Woods is the lead author of the study and the founding president of the African American Health Institute of San Bernardino County.

“It is unpleasant to admit, but some people do not receive appropriate services,” Woods said.

The Northern California city of Richmond is nearly 27 percent African American, and has many pockets of low-income neighborhoods. Anne Cevallos is a therapist at Rubicon, a nonprofit in Richmond that offers treatment and housing for people mental illnesses. She says her clients face multiple barriers to treatment.

“From a mental health perspective there could be triggers,” Cevallos said. “Not having enough to eat, domestic violence, neighborhood violence, never learning to cope.”

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