Watson Coleman Introduces Resolution to Acknowledge Disparities in Mental Health Care

Watson Coleman

Watson Coleman Introduces Resolution to Acknowledge Disparities in Mental Health Care


Washington, D.C. (July 10, 2019) — Today, Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) introduced a resolution calling for more research by the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities into racial disparities in diagnosing and treating mental health among youth. H.Res. 480 is intended to raise awareness for and address deficiencies in access to mental health care for young people of color, acknowledging lower rates of treatment for anxiety disorders and mood disorders over their lifetimes as well as the significantly smaller likelihood that black and Hispanic youth will get mental health care when compared with their white peers.

H.Res 480 calls on the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education to research best practices and incentives for those considering education and working in the mental health field.

“There are a number of factors that have led to the disparities in mental health care between young people of color and their white counterparts, and that means there are a number of opportunities for us to close the gap,” said Watson Coleman, the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Taskforce on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health. “From stigmas and a shortage of culturally appropriate health services, to a general lack of resources in schools that serve minority youth, Congress must acknowledge these disparities and direct resources to address this growing crisis.”

“The American Psychological Association applauds Rep. Watson Coleman and the Congressional Black Caucus for calling attention to the significant disparities in diagnosing and treating mental health disorders among youth in communities of color,” said Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, the American Psychological Association’s (APA) chief executive officer. “As research has documented an alarming increase in suicide rates for our youngest black youth, those ages 5-12, we must respond as a nation by prioritizing research into the risk and protective factors, and to ensure these youngsters have access to culturally competent mental and behavioral services and mental health providers.”

“We know from research and practice that young people of color with mental illness are much less likely to receive psychiatric treatment than young white adults,” said American Psychiatric Association President Bruce Schwartz, M.D. “We welcome research that will help us address these disparities in access to culturally competent care. We want to thank Rep. Watson Coleman and the Congressional Black Caucus for putting forward this important resolution.”

“Suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and is a public health issue that does not discriminate,” said John H. Madigan, Jr., Senior VP and Chief Public Policy Officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “Mental illness and self-harm impact every community, yet too many are not receiving the mental healthcare services they need and deserve. More action and attention must be given to the mental health needs of diverse populations. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention applauds Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman’s leadership, along with the CBC to highlight racial disparities in mental health care and prioritizing suicide prevention efforts for every American across diverse communities and populations.”

“Just like any other system in our country, racial disparities exist in our mental health system, from lack of access to quality care to the number of people of color working in the field,” said Anthony Smith, executive director of Cities United, a collective of mayors committed to ending the unprecedented violence of and loss of human life in American cities. “This has caused harm to individuals, families, and communities. Under Congresswoman Watson Coleman and the CBC’s leadership, we can change this and provide space for families and communities to heal. Cities United is thankful to play a small role in this important conversation.”

In April, Watson Coleman launched the CBC Task Force on Youth Suicide and Mental Health, an emergency task force focused on the growing problem of suicide and access to mental health care among Black youth. The task force continues to convene experts in Washington, DC and around the country, raise awareness among Members of Congress and staff, and identify legislative recommendations to address this mental health crisis, empowering a working group of academic and practicing experts led by Dr. Michael A. Lindsey and the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research at New York University, with the goal of developing and producing a report that will lead to concrete legislative proposals by the end of 2019.

House cosponsors of the resolution include: Reps. Nanette Barragán (D-CA), Karen Bass (D-CA), André Carson (D-IN), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Steven Horsford (D-NV), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Donald Payne, Jr. (D-NJ), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), Frederica Wilson (D-FL).

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