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Dougherty RH. Adm. Policy Ment. Health 2004; 31(3): 253-263.


American College of Mental Health Administration, 324 Freeport Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15238-3422, USA.


(Copyright © 2004, Holtzbrinck Springer Nature Publishing Group)






The 2003 AMCHA Summit was an initial step. It served to provide a broad outline of the socio-political context and key issues involved in reducing disparities, and it provided some momentum for change. However, much more work remains to be done. The summit clearly demonstrated that the reduction of disparities requires a multi-level approach and multi-disciplinary leaders. As a neutral convener, AMCHA is in a unique position to help advance the debate and lead the field. The membership includes researchers, administrators, clinicians, and policy makers from all levels of the behavioral health system. As noted, a change agenda needs to include efforts at national, state, and local levels involving consumers, providers, purchasers, oversight organizations, and researchers. ACMHA is committed to advancing the field and helping the national effort to reduce disparities. Examples of potential projects include the following: Training: Much has been done to develop effective cultural-competency training modules and to guide states in its implementation. No one should reinvent the wheel at this time. Funding should be targeted to provide incentives to states for dissemination of existing training curricula and the documentation of effectiveness to all providers and administrators. Data: Nationally, the field will benefit from data standards for the collection of and reporting on system disparities. This will facilitate interstate comparisons and provide baseline data for change efforts. Conducting surveys of providers, health plans, and public behavioral health systems on the availability and current uses of data by race and ethnicity is one example of a useful first step in this process of setting data standards. Research: Further research on the nature and causes of disparity is needed. There should be systematic research on factors influencing access, treatment, and outcomes for people of different cultures. Initially, because of the difficulties in deciding on standardized outcome measures, the encounter and claims data will provide the most useful information for analysis. Later, as standardized outcome measures are more widely utilized and the data collected, it may be possible to look for racial and ethnic differences in outcomes. The research agenda needs to be developed with a focus on services and health systems research data. Demonstrations: Demonstration efforts are urgently needed, similar to Connecticut's initiative, that integrate data on disparities with provider reporting, performance contracting, and system-wide interventions. These best practices need to be shared with the field. Coordination: The Summit showed that many are eager to learn from others in this area. As we move from further research to demonstration initiatives, AMCHA can play a role in coordinating these projects, particularly at the state and perhaps local levels. State efforts can benefit from best-practice presentations from other states and by an improved understanding of the nature and scope of the change required at a programmatic and local level. Local efforts need to clearly incorporate the views and perspectives of members of the community and consumers. The 2003 ACMHA Summit provided a foundation and a framework for work to proceed at all levels of the behavioral health delivery system. To accomplish meaningful change, we challenge SAMHSA, and the other federal agencies to provide the leadership to (1) develop common and core-performance measures focused on the reduction of disparities, (2) coordinate the research agenda, and (3) facilitate the use of new information technologies to collect and review these data. This is completely consistent with the vision of federal "leadership by example" that has been outlined by the Institute of Medicine (2003b) for the implementation of the "Crossing the Quality Chasm" report. We need to facilitate the efforts of the states and the federal government to identify and reduce disparities and provide a forum for states to share the results of their efforts, to benchmark their performance, and seek technical assistance. Over the next several years, we also expect that states will expand their efforts to implement evidence-based practices. However, we urge these states to implement existing evidence-based practices cautiously, especially with culturally diverse populations, due to the limited representation of ethnically diverse subjects in the research evidence on current practices. We strongly recommend collecting data on practice-based evidence-where effective interventions are routinely identified from existing practice and shared with the field, particularly those practices that seem effective with minority populations.

Language: en


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