Success with CHWs: Mental Health Services

Address disparities

01duboisSomaliStore4According to the 2007 Community Health Worker National Workforce Study published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CHWs help address racial/ethnic disparities in healthcare through:

  • Improved access to health care services
  • Increased health and screening
  • Better understanding between community members and the health and social service system
  • Enhanced communication between community members and health providers
  • Increased use of health care services
  • Improved adherence to health recommendations
  • Reduced need for emergency and specialty services

Here are some specific examples of how CHWs have helped reduce mental health disparities:

CHWs helped address post-disaster mental health disparities by complementing traditional implementation of collaborative care in post-Katrina New Orleans.

“Project wings” home visits is a mental health intervention for Latino families using community-based participatory research. This collaborative school-based, community-linked mental health promotion intervention for Latino adolescents and their families uses a CHW model to provide home-based outreach and education to parents of Latino adolescents.

The structural inequities related to mental health and mental illness include:

  • Lack of adequate screening services, especially for children,
  • Limits on the number of times that an outpatient is able to see a mental health counselor,
  • Significant copayments,
  • Lengthy wait times (30 to 45 days or more in some cases) to see a mental health professional, and
  • Widespread stigma in society that prevents persons struggling with mental health concerns or mental illness from seeking help.

Source: Advancing Health Equity in Minnesota, Report to the Legislature, MDH, Feb. 1, 2014.

Joan Kenerson King

Joan Kenerson King

"As most people who work in healthcare know, people with serious mental illness die on average 25 years earlier than the general population. And those with a co-occurring substance use disorder even earlier.

So the average age of death for someone in this country with a serious mental illness is about age 53. And if you have a substance use disorder it’s about 45.

The growing knowledge of this in the behavioral health field is prompting us to look at many different strategies for how can we impact that."

— Joan Kenerson King, RN, MSN, CS, Senior Integrated Health Consultant , National Council for Behavioral Health