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Diverse workforce can serve diverse patient populations

April 24, 2017
by Joanne Sammer
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Diversity and patient care

A provider might need to adjust a long-standing strategy when considering a diverse patient population. And the individuality of patients is seemingly endless. One way to develop the necessary cultural competency to serve a diverse patient population is work with local communities to identify the best channels for engagement.

 “Ethnic minorities or other diverse populations have a history of seeking or utilizing the support of religious resources rather than” seeking treatment in a behavioral healthcare setting, says Ryan Potter, director of clinical development at Ambrosia Treatment Centers with facilities in Florida, California and New Jersey. He urges providers to reach out through established community channels to find a way to bring people into treatment sooner when necessary.

“This is a complex problem that will not be solved by one intervention,” says Rosenberg. “Pay attention, acknowledge the problem and measure it. If you want to develop an environment where everyone feels welcome, you must make it a conscious decision.”

Joanne Sammer is a freelance writer based in New Jersey.


Minority populations are growing in the U.S.

Racial and ethnic minorities currently make up about a third of the U.S. population and are expected to become a majority by 2050, according to SAMHSA. Communities of color tend to experience a greater burden of mental and substance use disorders, often due to poorer access to care; inappropriate care; and higher social, environmental and economic risk factors.

African Americans

  • 44.5 million people
  • 12.4% reported illegal drug use in the last month in 2014
  • 21.6% reported binge drinking
  • 16.3% reported any mental illness in the past year for adults


American Indians and Alaska Natives

  • 5.2 million people
  • 14.9% reported illegal drug use in the last month
  • 14.3% reported past-month underage binge drinking
  • 21.2% reported a past-year mental illness


Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders

  • 18.2 million people
  • 4.1% of Asian Americans and 15.6% Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders reported illegal drug use
  • 13.1% of Asian American adults reported past-year mental illness


Hispanics or Latinos

  • 52 million people
  • 8.9% reported illicit drug use in the past month
  • 24.7% reported binge alcohol use
  • 15.6% of adults reported a past-year mental illness
  • 3.5% of adults had a serious mental illness
  • 3.3% had a co-occurring mental health and substance use disorder


Source: “Racial and Ethnic Minority Populations,” SAMHSA.gov, accessed April 13, 2017.