July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. It is observed to bring awareness to the unique struggles that racial and ethnic minority communities face regarding mental illness in the United States.
Specific community health awareness efforts have been centered around the COVID-19 pandemic. The US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health (OMH), focuses on promoting tools and resources to address the stigma regarding mental health among racial and ethnic minority populations.
OMH encourages state, tribal, and local leaders, healthcare providers, community-based organizations, faith leaders, and individuals who educate their communities regarding mental health stigma.
The first week in June honored health professionals in hospital settings and professionals who work closely with communities during the Community Health Improvement week. This national event was created to raise awareness and recognize community health professionals’ dedication and passion for improving the health of the communities they serve.
Some key highlights within Community Health Improvements are:
Engaged leadership with hospitals and health systems can play vital roles internally and externally within these organizations.
Community endorsement and support can come in the form of remembering all organizations are not alike, but all organizations can be involved in partnerships within the community.
Innovative coordination and funding will help communities optimize the use of existing resources while building on existing strengths.
Provide valuable care and optimize delivery through standard processes and handoffs, connecting through common screening and assessment tools, and coordinating all levels of follow-up care.
Leveraging technology will help people in a mental health crisis and be a support line for immediate help. Leverage technology can connect an electronic referral system to efficiently triage patients and coordinate care, while telehealth offers an additional avenue to expand behavioral health services.
Measurable and Actionable can be used in Community Health Improvement to have transparency in data reporting identified outcomes to demonstrate value to community partners. These standardized screening tools and quality measures will assist in improving data integrity.
Community Health Improvement is an ongoing goal to build connections between the whole person and integrated care. This process not only highlights the medical part, but also connects the community supports of all Americans, including additional resources for racial and ethnic minority communities.