Letter to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

November 15, 2010

Pamela S. Hyde, JD, Administrator
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
1 Choke Cherry Road
Rockville, MD 20857 

Dear Ms. Hyde:

As members of the Mental Health Workforce Coalition, a group dedicated to addressing the increasing shortage in mental health care professionals working with minority populations, we write to urge you to request increased funding in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 President’s Budget Request for the Minority Fellowship Program (MFP). In particular, we request a total of $7.5 million for the MFP in FY 2012, an increase of $3.2 million over FY 2011, which would allow the program to support additional fellows from minority backgrounds dedicated to working with underserved communities. 

As you know, the mental health and substance abuse needs of minority communities in the U.S. have been historically underserved by trained practitioners especially those with the skills necessary to provide culturally and linguistically competent services.  The MFP was designed to help reverse the disparities that exist in mental health services and improve the quality of those services to minority populations through the training of minority mental health professionals. Specifically, the program provides stipends to graduate level students to increase the number of culturally competent behavioral health professionals who teach, administer, conduct services research, and provide direct mental health and substance abuse services to underserved populations. We hope you will demonstrate your support for this highly successful program, which has been instrumental in the recruitment and training of more than 1,000 individuals from underrepresented groups in the fields of mental health and substance abuse.

The Program provides funding to the American Nurses Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, Council on Social Work Education, and American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy to facilitate fellowship programs for students to serve in underserved communities.  The MFP continues to be an important program as the mental health needs of minorities in the U.S. have been, and remain, grossly underserved.  Evidence suggests that minority mental health professionals practice in underserved areas at a higher rate than non-minorities, and that a direct positive relationship exists between the number of minority mental health professionals and the utilization of needed services by ethnic minorities.

As the U.S. population becomes increasingly diverse and the need for additional mental health care professionals increases, it is now more critical than ever before to invest in programs like the MFP.  The MFP will continue to help ensure that our health care workforce is sustainable, culturally competent and adequately trained to address the unique needs of individuals, families, and caregivers with mental health and substance-related problems.

We believe that a diverse health care workforce is essential to meeting the needs of our nation’s underserved populations. Thank you for your continued support of the MFP and should you have any questions or require additional information about the MFP, please do not hesitate to contact Ms. Wendy Naus at (202) 289-7475.

Sincerely,

Andrew Austin-Daily, American Psychological Association
Ken Hardy, PhD, American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
Annelle Primm, MD, American Psychiatric Association
Geraldine Meeks, PhD, MPA, Council on Social Work Education
Rose Gonzales, PHDc, RN, American Nurses Association