Participants at California Summit Discuss Culture-Based Care as Way To Successfully Implement Mental Health Services Act
About 800 mental health providers and experts gathered last week in Burlingame, Calif., at the 2006 Cultural Competence and Mental Health Summit to discuss improving culture-based care and how to implement funds from California's Mental Health Services Act, the Oakland Tribune reports. The act, which was approved by voters in 2004, placed a 1% income tax increase on residents with annual incomes higher than $1 million. Revenue from the tax, projected to be more than $1 billion annually, aims to improve mental health care for underserved populations, including racial and ethnic minorities. Counties are responsible for administering the programs funded through the act. Attendees at the event said that to successfully implement funding from the act, the mental health industry needs to address cultural barriers, including "unacknowledged racism by well-meaning white therapists," the Tribune reports. Fifty workshops on such topics as transgender and gay patients, developing skills to work with American Indians, acknowledging diversity among Asian and Pacific Islander patients and understanding "historical trauma" among blacks were offered at the conference. Nancy Arvold, a therapist who taught a workshop at the conference, said that if therapists "interact with the client out of ... stereotypes, then [they] reinforce the stuff that's probably been partially responsible for how they ended up in our system anyway." She added that white therapists sometimes have "an attitude that 'we're the normal group.' So we judge ourselves as standard and everything else is different and not as good." Matthew Mock, a director of the California Institute for Mental Health, said, "I would agree ... in that way. It's not to bash people or to say they're intentionally part of the problem. But maybe through history they marginalize people" (Bohan, Oakland Tribune, 11/11).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.