One in five (22%) Hispanics/Latinos have a mental illness and one in 20 have a serious mental illness, according to the latest federal government data (SAMHSA 2023). Yet only 36% of Hispanics/Latinos received mental health services, compared to 52% of whites. During Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 – Oct. 15), we can celebrate the achievements and contributions of Hispanics/Latinos while also acknowledging the equity work that still needs to be done to increase access to care and decrease stigma around mental health and substance use. Psychiatrists and other mental health professionals can help meet the moment by considering Hispanic/Latino communities’ varied needs, including language fluency and cultural competency.
We often focus more on treating illnesses, both physical and mental, than on staying healthy. But the absence of mental illness does not necessarily mean good mental health.
An estimated 14% of the U.S. population speaks Spanish at home, and 16 million Spanish speakers have limited English proficiency(1). In addition to the potential barrier of lack of language services, recent research has identified other factors contributing to inequities in access and outcomes for Spanish-speaking patients, including perceived discrimination, and mistrust and privacy concerns.(2)
The co-responder model is a recent innovation in behavioral health services that employs a mental health professional and a law enforcement official as dual first responders when an individual experiences a mental health crisis. The Marcus-David Peters Act (“Marcus Alert” or “MA”), signed into law in Virginia in late 2020, commemorates Marcus-David Peters, a young Black biology teacher in Richmond, VA, who was killed by police while undergoing a mental health crisis.
On July 25, 2023, the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services released a proposed rule intended to strengthen enforcement of the 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) and improve patients’ ability to access care for mental health and substance use disorders (MH/SUD). At the same time, the agencies also released a Technical Release, seeking feedback on data requirements related to network composition and a possible enforcement safe harbor; a second Report to Congress, as required by law; and a Fact Sheet summarizing enforcement efforts during 2022.