Medicaid Is Critical to Addressing the Mental Health Needs of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)

July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, and the Modern Medicaid Alliance is committed to raising awareness about the mental health needs of minority communities throughout the country.

This year, the observance carries added significance as communities continue to work through the COVID-19 crisis and the additional challenges that impact health and wellness, including isolation and increased stress.

Nearly 52 million adults across the U.S. are affected by mental illness each year. These conditions can be particularly prevalent in minority populations and underserved communities due to geographic challenges with accessing care, cultural stigma, and economic barriers to receiving care.

According to recent data from Modern Medicaid Alliance partner Mental Health America, minority communities experience the following prevalence of mental health conditions: 

  • Native American/Alaskan Native: 830,000, or 23% 
  • African Americans: 6.8 million, or 17% 
  • Latinx/Hispanic Americans: 8.9 million, or 15% 
  • Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders: 2.2 million, or 13% 

Improving mental health care across the country means that everyone – no matter their background, culture, ethnicity, or identity – can get the appropriate support and quality of care to live healthy, fulfilling lives.

As the single largest payer for mental health services in the country, serving 26% of all adults living with a serious mental health disease, Medicaid plays an important role in expanding access to mental health services and making that care more equitable.

Medicaid programs provide a range of mental health services, including social work services, counseling, peer support, substance use disorder treatment, and inpatient and outpatient psychiatric care. Services that enable people with mental health conditions to work, including job coaching and transportation, are also covered by Medicaid. Telehealth is also playing a critical role in offering mental health services to more people. Many Medicaid managed care organizations are promoting access to telehealth, providing on-demand behavioral health programs via telemedicine, and helping Medicaid enrollees access Wi-Fi and digital devices to take advantage of telehealth services.

These mental health services offered by Medicaid are critical in reducing health disparities.

Research has found that Medicaid expansion was associated with significant increases in mental health treatment among all racial and ethnic groups, although disparities persist. Additionally, addiction treatment programs that accept Medicaid payments play a significant role in eliminating disparities in treatment completion among Latinx/Hispanic Americans. Medicaid has also been associated with a suppression of racial disparities in reported need for mental health services for children and the families of children with special health care needs.

Improving the accessibility and quality of Medicaid mental health services will lead to better mental health outcomes for people of color and underserved and at-risk communities.

For more information on the mental health services Medicaid covers, visit this link.