Racism in health care?

Racism in health care?

A new study claims that there are massive racial disparities in a surprising area of health care.

An alarming new study indicates that there may be a huge racial disparity when it comes to mental health care, as researchers have found evidence that black children and young adults are half as likely as their white counterparts to get mental health care even though they suffer from the same rates of mental health problems. The study is based on data on children under 18 and young adults 18-34 from a study that covered all 50 states between the years 2006 and 2012, according to a Physicians for a National Health Program statement.

Minorities received fewer visits to psychiatrists, less access to social workers and psychologists, and not as much substance abuse counseling and mental health counseling as white patients. And it had nothing to do with not having as much of a need: black and white children have similar rates of mental health problems. Hispanic parents don’t report mental health impairment as much, but they still had less access than they needed.

Black children had 37 percent fewer visits to psychiatrists, and Latino children had 49 percent fewer visits, the study found. Also, black children had 47 percent fewer visits to any mental health professional, and the figure was 58 percent for Latino children.

Young adults were even more likely to see such a disparity. White people were three times more likely to get outpatient mental health services than blacks or Hispanics, and black young adults got one seventh of the amount of substance abuse counseling as whites.

“The under-provision of mental health care for minority children contrasts starkly with the high frequency of punitive sanctions that their behaviors elicit,” the authors write in the statement. “Black children suffer excessive rates of school discipline such as suspensions and expulsions starting at preschool ages. Minority teens also have disproportionate contact with the juvenile justice system, with higher arrest rates for nonviolent, low-level offenses such as drug possession, as well as for non-criminal misbehaviors such as truancy and curfew violations. Youthful transgressions that might result in referral for treatment among non-minority children more often incur criminal sanctions for minorities.”

Dr. Lyndonna Marrast added: “It has become increasingly clear that minorities are overrepresented in the criminal justice system and underrepresented in the receipt of mental health care. We need to look closely at how equitably our health care institutions are serving all segments of society.”



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