Friday, April 15, 2022

Black Veterans Half as Likely as Whites to Receive Prescriptions for Depression

White veterans with depression are twice as likely as their Black peers to receive a prescription for antidepressants in primary care, a study in Psychiatric Services in Advance has found.

“These results underscore the importance of examining patterns of racial disparities in all settings in which mental health care is provided to identify areas for improvement,” wrote Jocelyn E. Remmert, Ph.D., of the Corporal Michael J. Crescenz Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center in Philadelphia and colleagues.

From January 2015 to December 2020, the researchers collected data from 4,120 Black and 4,372 White adult primary care patients who were referred to an integrated behavioral health program at the medical center. At each patient’s initial assessment, a health technician accessed the patient’s medical record and confirmed the patient’s prescriptions with the patient. Patients were screened for depression symptoms with the 9-item Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9).

After controlling for depression symptoms, demographic characteristics, and other clinical symptoms, the researchers found that White patients were 1.96 times more likely than Black patients to have received an antidepressant prescription at the time of the assessment. Among patients with severe depression, White patients were 1.87 times more likely than Black patients to receive an antidepressant prescription.

“These results are particularly notable because, in this sample, Black patients had significantly more severe depression symptoms than White patients, and significantly more Black patients had symptoms of moderate and severe depression,” Remmert and colleagues wrote. “Our results highlight the need for additional studies to understand the scope of racial disparities in mental health treatment broadly and to identify recommendations to improve access to evidence-based mental health treatment for veterans from minority groups in all settings.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric Services article “Improving Black Mental Health: A Collective Call to Action.”

(Image: iStock/scyther5)

COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Extended Through

The Department of Health and Human Services has renewed the public health emergency until July 15 due to the continued consequences of COVID-19. States will be given 60 days’ notice before termination of the public health emergency. The public health emergency was initially declared in January 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic began.


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