, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 407-431

Disparities in Mental Health Service Utilization among Low-Income African American Adolescents: Closing the Gap by Enhancing Practitioner’s Competence

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The lack of racial and ethnic match as a barrier to care in mental health treatment services has received considerable attention. In systems of care, which provide public mental health services to African American adolescents, the provider base is largely non-African American. This difference presents a challenge for African American adolescents and their parents who want a provider who is sensitive to the issues, which define their lives. Racial disparities in the utilization of mental health treatment services are well documented; and many providers want to development mental health treatment interventions, which increase access and utilization. However, the findings associated with increasing access and utilization are generally predicated on the structural barriers to care. Very little attention has been given to the non-structural barriers for access to and utilization of mental health treatment services. The purpose of this paper is to increase practitioners’ knowledge of the interpersonal barriers to treatment, which can result from the socio-cultural environment of many African American adolescents. Enhancing the provider knowledge base is viewed as one strategy to closing the racial disparity gap in access to and utilization of adolescent mental health services for African Americans.

The author would like to thank Aurora Jackson, Carol Anderson, Ina Jones, and Michael Newman for their comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript.