Behavioral health disparities refer to differences in outcomes and access to services related to mental health and substance misuse which are experienced by groups based on their social, ethnic, and economic status.
Behavioral health disparities can be found in the U.S. based on age, sex, income, disability status, sexual orientation, language, geographic location and other factors. Each year, behavioral health disparities lead to significant human and financial costs as racial and ethnic minorities experience worse health status and treatment outcomes, and more difficulty accessing services than their peers in other population groups.
Black adults experience higher levels of behavioral health disorders than members of the adult white population, according to Mental Health America. However, Hispanic and immigrant groups tend to experience lower levels of behavioral health disorders than the adult white population. Lifetime prevalence rates among Latino Americans born in the U.S. are lower than those for non-Latino whites, vary among ethnic groups, and are higher among U.S.-born Latinos than they are among foreign-born Latinos. While there are variable differences in behavioral health outcomes for different ethnic and minority groups, there is consistency in the lack of equitable access to care. State legislators have pursued various policy approaches to reducing behavioral health disparities, and these state innovations are highlighted below.
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