In the United States, one in five people lives with a mental health disorder.
As a Registered Nurse, I have worked directly with patients. This experience has given me a unique insight into some of the problems facing our health care system. One critical issue the health care industry needs to address is the disparity in accessing behavioral health care among minority groups.
Individuals who fall into these groups – whether based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender – often suffer from poorer behavioral health outcomes compared to those who do not belong to these groups.
We need to examine why these disparities continue to exist. Why, in a time when our society is working to close the gaps in income, housing, and education, is behavioral health lagging behind?
Consider these facts:
Diverse communities face barriers to behavioral health access that many people don’t think about. There is greater stigma and misinformation around these issues in some minority communities, which affects whether, when and what kind of help individuals may seek. They might encounter language barriers or bias with providers that can lead to misdiagnosis and receiving inadequate resources. And there is a shortage of “culturally competent” providers, or physicians who can provide services tailored to individuals’ cultural and language preferences.
All of these factors combined have created a system that is failing some of North Carolina’s most vulnerable populations. This has to change.
Our mission at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) is to improve the health and well-being of all North Carolinians. That goal cannot be achieved without looking at total health, which includes both behavioral and physical health. The two go hand-in-hand. That’s why neglecting behavioral health can complicate serious like heart disease, high blood pressure, and obesity.
We need to address disparities in behavioral health care because we believe all North Carolinians should receive great care. We know behavioral health treatment can lead to improvements in total health and better quality of life.
Our vision is to be a model for health care transformation through our commitments to quality, affordability, and better patient experience. That’s why we’re working to integrate behavioral health across the health care system. We’re building a more robust network of behavioral health providers and providing them with the tools and resources they need to treat their patients.
And we’re addressing barriers to access like cost, coverage and logistical challenges that disproportionately affect specific groups in our communities.
To truly integrate behavioral health across our system, we will need to reduce the stigma surrounding it. The more we raise awareness and provide education on behavioral health, the more we can help lessen the embarrassment around a subject that affects so many of us.
That is why it is so incredible to see community groups and organizations of all types come up with innovative strategies for bringing behavioral health care to their communities.
While I believe our work at Blue Cross NC will be key to closing gaps in behavioral health care, this isn’t a problem we can tackle on our own. I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish when we work together with providers, community groups and government to create a more equitable system for everyone.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability in its health programs and activities. Learn more about our non-discrimination policy and no-cost services available to you.
© 2023 Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. ®, SM Marks of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans. Blue Cross NC is an abbreviation for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.