Thursday, January 22, 2015

More Psychiatric Care for Minorities Could Mean Substantial Savings to Health System, Study Finds

Reducing disparities in mental health care access for racial and ethnic minorities would lead to subsequent reductions in some general medical expenditures for the same populations, said Benjamin LĂȘ Cook, Ph.D., M.P.H., a senior scientist at the Center for Multicultural Mental Health Research and an instructor at the Harvard Medical School, and colleagues in the study "The Costs and Benefits of Reducing Racial-Ethnic Disparities in Mental Health Care" published in Psychiatric Services in Advance.

The researchers looked at data on 6,206 people with mental illness from the 2004-2010 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. Relative to whites, African Americans and Latinos who received outpatient mental health care in one year spent less on inpatient and emergency general medical care the following year. Latinos receiving mental health care in year 1 spent less than others on inpatient general medical care in year 2. In addition, Latinos taking psychotropic drugs in year 1 showed reductions in inpatient general medical care.

The U.S. health care system would need to provide additional care to approximately 1.3 million blacks and 1.1 million Latinos with probable mental illness to eliminate disparities, wrote the researchers. “For blacks and Latinos, the potential savings in inpatient general medical expenditure are substantial (as much as $1 billion), providing preliminary evidence of a ‘business case’ for reducing disparities in mental health care access.

For more in Psychiatric News about the effect of racial and ethnic disparities in mental health, see the article "Satcher Outlines Roadmap to Reducing Health Disparities."

--aml (Image: Kaband/


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