Mental Health America Awarded Grant To Deliver Culturally Appropriate Support For Native Americans With Serious Mental Illness
Regional Approach to Eliminating
Behavioral Health Disparities
Contact: Steve Vetzner, (703) 797-2588 or email@example.com
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (March 31, 2009)-Mental Health America today announced it has been awarded a $750,000 grant by Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation to develop culturally appropriate support for Native Americans with serious mental illness and in rural and frontier communities.
The program takes a regional approach toward eliminating behavioral health disparities among Native American and frontier populations.
The funding will be used to develop a peer-to-peer program for use in the Navajo and Ute Nations region in tribal lands in the Four Corners area (the borders of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona).
Mental Health America will also create education programs to help reduce the stigma and discrimination around mental health disabilities in the frontier and tribal lands of North Dakota.
Among the approaches to be used will be creation of leadership groups within tribal communities focusing on behavioral health, and peer-led mental health programs in tribal and frontier communities. Each year, 30 peer specialists are expected to graduate from peer-to-peer training to staff these programs.
Mental health America will work with MHA affiliates in Utah, New Mexico, Colorado and North Dakota to implement the program.
Many obstacles exist that prevent adequate and culturally competent behavioral health care in rural areas and for Native American populations. These include scarcity of professional staff, a lack of cultural and linguistically competent providers, discrimination and social stigma, a real fear that confidentiality won't be protected, financing and reimbursement issues, insufficient integration of behavioral (mental and substance use) with physical health, little prevention efforts, transportation difficulties and low numbers of providers.
Native Americans suffer from higher rates of suicide, alcohol abuse and/or dependence, post-traumatic stress disorder, fetal alcohol syndrome, poverty, homelessness and unemployment than any other cultural group. They also lack the workforce to provide culturally and linguistically competent services. Twenty-four percent of Native Americans lack health insurance, compared with 16 percent of the U.S. population.
In regions where cultural and ethnic differences and differing governmental structures and relationship are dominant, these obstacles are compounded.
Mental Health America will work through its affiliates to create Tribal Behavioral Health Councils and a trained corps of tribal mental health care providers in the regions. The Tribal Behavioral Councils will actively work to change the culture of distrust of services, but will also ensure inclusion of their cultural and ethnic values and beliefs in the process, training, and community education, marketing and publicity campaigns. Their role as elders and stakeholders will establish an increasing sense of recovery and self-worth, and enable them to establish a strategic outline for change which they can present to regional, state and federal policy and funding sources.
The project will become self sustaining once consumers are certified as peer specialists and are employed in agencies in their region. Colorado and New Mexico have adapted a new system for Medicaid billable services for individuals who have co-occurring disorders and/or mental illness as well as consumers with issues around substance use. Certified peer specialist are now a billable service and once hired, the project will begin to be self-sustaining and will not require grant funding.
In North Dakota, the program will create awareness campaigns and supportive polices to reduce increasing discrimination and stigmas around mental health disabilities within the distinctly frontier and tribal lands.
Celebrating 100 years of mental health advocacy, Mental Health America is the country's leading nonprofit dedicated to helping all people live mentally healthier lives. With our more than 300 affiliates nationwide, we represent a growing movement of Americans who promote mental wellness for the health and well-being of the nation-everyday and in times of crisis. In 2009, we are marking a century of achievement with a year-long Centennial Observance: "Celebrating the Legacy. Forging the Future."