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Thinking About Mental Health and Social Justice

In our work at AKA we work on the ground, side-by-side, with communities. Most are rural, underserved areas in the west. We see all forms of health and health care disparities, inequities, and inequalities. One glaring disparity from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities is that just 10% of individuals with a mental health disorder receive effective treatment. Disparities and inequities are often rooted in oppression, racism, and discrimination. All are barriers for individuals, families, and communities reaching their highest level of health and well-being. Data collected during the COVID-19 pandemic shows that people of color experienced greater physical and mental health disparities during the pandemic, and Black and American Indian or Alaska Native groups ranked the worst. Perhaps this is not a surprise to health advocates, researchers, evaluators, and policy makers… but it needs to change. One of the greatest injustices that we see is the limited access to mental health services for individuals in need, and the lack of recognition that mental health is just as important as our physical health. Can you imagine emergency rooms turning away someone with an open fracture, or a bone sticking out of the skin? We cannot. Yet our healthcare system makes people wait up to six months when they are in crisis and need immediate mental health services.

182.5 is the number of days it takes to get a mental health appointment scheduled in one community we work in. 91.2 is the number of days it takes to get a mental health appointment scheduled in another community we work in.

It is time for change.

California’s Senate Bill 221 will reduce the wait times for mental health appointments and require providers to see individuals with within 10-days business days. Montana is advocating for legislation that addresses mental health professional shortage areas by adjusting standards for licensing psychologists from other states to move to Montana (Senate Bill 90). California and Montana are leading the way for mental health and social justice in the west. #prevention #recovery



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