Before any assessment can be done regarding the more effective methods for addressing mental health, the present status of mental health should first be understood. A 2008 study on California’s public mental health care services system focusing on a sample population of individuals younger than 18 years showed increased use of services by racial or ethnic children as opposed to White Americans. Utilization of facilities such as emergency crisis intervention centers were also more frequent for racial or ethnic participants.
Children were noted to more frequently access these mental health facilities in California with increasing severity of the mental health crises they experienced. There were no significant racial disparities, however, when it came to repeating their visits or coming back for treatment for serious mental health problems. White Americans may even re-visit mental health facilities for intervention with their mental health problems more than African Americans and other racial minorities. (Snowden, Masland, Libby, Wallace, & Fawley, 2008)
McGuire & Miranda (2008) also noted the disparity in mental health care as determined by the variable of racial identity. African Americans and middle-aged Hispanic Americans show disadvantages in health outcomes when compared with White Americans. Asian Americans and Hispanic Americans of younger and older years all show advantages in health outcomes when compared with White Americans but not with native Hawaiian individuals. With regards to mental disorders, however, there were lower reported rates of lifetime occurrence for all minorities, except Puerto Ricans, when compared with White Americans.
Some of the more salient factors contributing to the racial disparities in mental health include mental health care providers’ bias or stereotyping, mental health care providers’ statistical discrimination (involving providers’ decisions regarding treatment that eventually reduce the patient’s hopes for acquiring truly effective intervention), geographic differences, and health insurance differences. (McGuire & Miranda, 2008) Access to mental health care is dictated to a great degree by the last two factors, geographic differences and health insurance differences.
Compared with factors involving the characteristics of mental health care providers, these two factors may have greater contributions to the racial disparity seen in mental health. (Sturm, Ringel, & Adreyeya, 2003; Heinrich, 2002) Gray & O’Reilly (2001) stress the importance of mental health legislation in determining whether a mentally ill individual receives or does not receive psychiatric treatment. Mental health legislation also determines the timeliness of the psychiatric treatment.
In any country or respective state of the United States, the passing of certain laws is very much important in determining the status of mental health care in that particular area. California’s Proposition 63 Together with the numerous efforts aimed at providing improved mental health care, the state of California has initiated its own methods of addressing mental health issues. In late 2005, 53 percent of California voters passed the much-awaited Proposition 63, what is also known as the Mental Health Services Act.
The act allows the expansion of mental health services and development of innovative programs for the mentally ill through the provision of added funds. (Than, 2005) Proposition 63 frees up approximately $1 billion for the different projects and activities of mental health services. Roughly 30,000 people will be affected by the added 1 percent tax from which the mental health service revenues will be taken. Services springing from Proposition 63 will focus on prevention, early intervention, as well as home provision for homeless mentally ill individuals. (Than, 2005)