Access to Mental Health Treatment by English Language Proficiency and {Race/Ethnicity}

  • Sentell T
  • Shumway M
  • Snowden L
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Abstract

Limited English proficiency {(LEP)} may contribute to mental health care disparities, yet empirical data are limited. To quantify the language barriers to mental health care by race/ethnicity using a direct measure of {LEP} is the objective of the study. Cross-sectional analysis of the 2001 California Health Interview Survey is the study’s design. Adults aged 18 to 64 who provided language data (n = 41,984) were the participants of the study. Participants were categorized into three groups by self-reported English proficiency and language spoken at home: (1) English-speaking only, (2) Bilingual, and (3) {Non-English} speaking. Mental health treatment was measured by self-reported use of mental health services by those reporting a mental health need. {Non-English} speaking individuals had lower odds of receiving needed services {(OR:} 0.28; 95% {CI:} 0.17–0.48) than those who only spoke English, when other factors were controlled. The relationship was even more dramatic within racial/ethnic groups: {non-English} speaking {Asian/PIs} {(OR = 0.15;} 95% {CI:} 0.30–0.81) and {non-English} speaking Latinos {(OR:} 0.19; 95% {CI:} 0.09–0.39) had significantly lower odds of receiving services compared to {Asian/PIs} and Latinos who spoke only English. {LEP} is associated with lower use of mental health care. Since {LEP} is concentrated among {Asian/PIs} and Latinos, it appears to contribute to racial/ethnic disparities in mental health care. Heightened attention to {LEP} is warranted in both mental health practice and policy.

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Authors

  • Tetine Sentell

  • Martha Shumway

  • Lonnie Snowden

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