Black History Month – Equality in Healthcare

Written on by Valerie Melroy

Voice and Vision wants to recognize Black History Month each February, yet we believe people who are Black or African American should be honored and recognized all year long for their gifts, creativity, talents, and contributions that helped to make America the great nation she is today. The list is extensive of those who are publicized, yet there are thousands more throughout the centuries whose creative gifts touched every sphere of influence, and countless numbers of people whose selfless acts and hope-filled actions made a tremendous impact on generations. One person that comes to mind, is an amazing, 90-year-old African American woman I met recently from Philadelphia who wrote a children’s book that she distributes for free, developed a model to help pre-school children learn, is on a weekly radio program, and goes about her community working with leaders who encourage transformation through unity. She actively promotes education, outreach, hope, love, and prayer as tools of transformation in the region.   

Voice and Vision believes outreach, education, and advocacy are fundamental tools to transformation. We have been very outspoken about the lack of equality of our Black and African American neighbors when it comes to accessing behavioral health services and treatment, a disparity proven by research. When writing our second Help and Hope book, we dedicated chapter seven to “Cultural Awareness to Substance Use and Treatment” believing awareness is one step in addressing some of the disparities. Dr. Taunya Tinsley did a wonderful job writing the key section in this chapter and included research data, which can be read in full by clicking here. The following is an excerpt from Chapter Seven:        

What strategies and facilitators for mental health outreach and engagement are needed in the African American community? (Pages 255-256)

Research indicates the following interventions as a firm foundation for outreach and engagement:

Psychoeducation: Increase the quality of educational opportunities emphasizing that mental health and substance use and addiction services and programs are available and that recipients are better off than those who opt out of treatment.

Community Outreach: Build community resources and engage in active outreach into African American communities to reach families, leaders, and gatekeepers.

  • Spirituality (Pastors/Churches/Faith-based Organizations): Integrate spirituality as part of the help-seeking and treatment process by educating clergy about mental health needs and providing a mechanism through which congregations and mental health professionals can work together. Targeting faith-based organizations in addressing mental health needs and disparities within the African American community is significant as the Black church has historically served as the key source of support and guidance for many African American families.
  • School Counselors: Engage in collaboration of care with these school personnel, as they are often primary identifiers, referral agents, and service providers. School counselors play a critical role in promoting mental health and the social, behavioral, and emotional wellness of all children in the community.
  • Community Mental Health Agencies: Partner with mental health clinics to explore how services can be designed and delivered to better meet the needs of African American and other underserved populations.
  • Community Centers: Provide activities, positive role models, and a safe place in which to form friendships for children and adolescents.
  • Community Leaders/Advisory Boards/Gatekeepers: Explore opportunities to partner with relevant community leaders to foster relationships that will allow collaboration to identify community needs and research options to address those needs.

Person-Centered Approach to Treatment: Listen and effectively hear the client, conceptualize the presenting issue, apply theory and evidence-based research to develop an effective treatment plan; intentionally use person-first language on administered surveys and resources to clients and the community (e.g., “people with mental illness” vs. “mentally ill”) (as cited).

Better Treatment Coordination and Follow-Up: Engage in collaboration of care between physicians, psychiatrists, and mental health practitioners. Include Family Members and Friends: Seek support from family members, friends, significant others in the form of reassurance, companionship, and advice.

Training for Multicultural and Social Justice Competence: Avoid generalization and also consider age and gender alongside socioeconomic differences because of their strong association with help-seeking; increase the awareness of personnel providing mental health care; increase self-awareness of attitudes, biases, and perceptions of African Americans, increase knowledge of the Black and African American culture as well as differences in idioms of distress, utilize culturally appropriate skills, techniques, and interventions as well as develop culturally appropriate treatment plans; increase knowledge of how to overcome feelings of mistrust into the therapeutic process; and engage in social justice advocacy by promoting access and equity in mental health and substance use and addiction treatments and programs at both the individual and systemic level.

Identifying strategies for outreach and engagement that is needed in the African American communities is important when addressing racial mental health disparities. Tailoring interventions to increase access to help for mental health and SUDs that take into account psychosocial, personal, structural, and systemic level barriers will assist with the quality of care and recovery among Black and African American drug and alcohol service delivery.” *

Please help Voice and Vision educate your family and friends by getting the word out about access to our free book:  Help and Hope: From Families Who Have Walked the Walk, Substance Use: The Growing Need to Know.  Thank you. 


There is a lot of information available in case you want to do your own research. Voice and Vision also has additional resources, please check our YouTube channel here for some webinars and a virtual conference we hosted.  Another local resource is Community Care Behavioral Health Organization’s Webinars from 2020, of which Voice and Vision had an opportunity to participate in two of the four. You can access the webinar series by clicking on the below links and entering your name and email address.    

Webinar 1: “Utilizing the Multicultural and Social Justice Counseling Competencies as a Guide for Working with Black and African American Clients”

Webinar 2: “Blacks and African Americans; History, Stereotypes, and Mental Health Literacy”

Webinar 3: “Engaging Healing Practitioners and Members through a Wholistic Approach”

Webinar 4: “Establishing a Community of Recovery Among Blacks and African Americans”

* Tinsley, T. M. (2020) Addressing Outreach and Engagement in the African American Community (pages 246-256). Help and Hope: From Families Who Have Walked the Walk, Substance Use: The Growing Need to Know. Voice and Vision, Inc.

Photo by Alex Green from Pexels

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