Center Happenings - March 2015

CMMHR Researchers Author Report on Behavioral Health Disparities in Massachusetts

Watch Dr. Benjamin Cook discuss the report on Channel 7's "Urban Update"

Center Director Dr. Margarita Alegria, along with co-authors Dr. Benjamin Cook, Stephen Loder and Dr. Michael Doonan, released a report entitled The Time is Now: Tackling Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Mental and Behavioral Health Services in Massachusetts. Drs. Alegria and Cook presented the results of their analysis at the Massachusetts Health Policy Forum in Boston on Thursday, December 11.

One of the most striking findings included in the report is that Latinos in Massachusetts are much less likely to access behavioral health care than whites. Among Latino adults with mental illness in Massachusetts, only 29.2% received treatment compared to 51.5% of whites. The authors also found that among Massachusetts high school students, Hispanic and Native American youth were significantly more likely than whites to report feelings of sadness and hopelessness, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. In contrast, higher rates of drug and alcohol use were reported among white youth and adults.

In her presentation, Dr. Alegria speculated that large disparities for Latinos may reflect difficulty in accessing care for undocumented immigrants and the challenge of finding Spanish-speaking behavioral health providers. Solutions recommended in the report include increasing Medicaid payments for behavioral health services, expanding provision of services regardless of documentation status or ability to pay and focusing resources on community-based research and prevention programs.

The report was commissioned by the Massachusetts Health Policy Forum with support from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of MA Foundation and the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation. A PDF of the full document can be found here.

News coverage of the report:

- Report finds racial disparities in behavioral health services

- Dr. Benjamin Cook discusses disparities in MA on Channel 7's "Urban Update" 


The results of the Center's Engagement and Counseling for Latinos (ECLA) clinical trial are now published in Medical Care.

The Engagement and Counseling for Latinos (ECLA) Intervention was tested in Boston, MA and San Juan, PR in 8 community health clinics serving the Latino population. This 6–8 session cognitive behavioral therapy and care management intervention was offered both in person and by phone to Latino patients recruited from primary care, and compared to usual care for depression. Both telephone and face-to-face versions of the intervention were found to be more effective than usual care. The intervention appears to help Latino patients reduce depressive symptoms and improve functioning. The higher treatment initiation for the telephone versus face-to-face intervention (89.7% vs. 78.8%) suggests that telephone-based care may improve access and quality of care. This study was funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), as part of its Comparative Effectiveness Research for Eliminating Disparities (CERED) projects.

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The mission of the Center for Multicultural Mental Health Research is to generate innovative mental health services research that helps shape policy, practice and service delivery to reduce disparities and improve the well-being of multicultural populations. 

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