Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said Tuesday he wants more Hispanic families to proactively address mental health issues to overcome structural and cultural barriers that undermine community diagnosis and treatment of mental illness.
“We’ve got to talk to people, especially if we can get people from these communities, Latinos, especially Hispanics, to talk to their families and let them know there’s nothing wrong with saying you have a broken bone or a depressed heart,” Becerra told The Hill .
“Either way, you’re sick, both physically and mentally, you’re sick.”
A March report by UnidosUS, the largest Latino human rights organization in the United States, found that between 2010 and 2020, the suicide rate among Hispanics rose more than twice as fast as that among white Americans.
Suicide rates among Hispanic men rose 5.7 percent between 2019 and 2020, as suicide deaths overall declined, the report found.
Becerra addressed the issue at the Hispanic Higher Education Annual Forum of the Association of Hispanic Colleges and Colleges.
“I know 9 out of 10 Americans say we are facing a mental health crisis. It can be even more intense in our disenfranchised communities, communities of color, because they will be served last, and often Minimal,” Becerra told attendees.
While Becerra noted that cultural barriers affect the rate at which many Hispanics seek mental health care, he said the main issue is access.
“First, make sure people know they have access to mental health services. A lot of people don’t know where to go. They don’t think they can afford them,” Becerra said.
“It has many [available], including some community health centers, federally qualified community health centers, many different providers that offer it, especially if you’re insured there. If you don’t have insurance, you can still get some care. “
Becerra said his department needs more resources and authority to address the problem, but also noted that mental health care in particular has benefited from telemedicine lessons learned during the COVID pandemic.
“In behavioral health, we’re seeing telemedicine’s impact perhaps more than in other areas because many people are often intimidated by stigma or because of distance or the cost of accessing mental health services,” Becerra said.
“Well, if you can do it at home, you have the privacy of your home. You don’t have to pay big bills, and it’s very hard to make excuses for not showing up, so telemedicine has become very important.”
But Becerra said the rise of telehealth during the pandemic could soon be interrupted if Congress doesn’t extend pandemic-related telehealth measures.
“Congress has passed measures that allow us to temporarily extend these flexibilities and telehealth, but they expire at the end of 2024. If they expire and Congress does nothing, it will be very difficult to provide these telehealth services. “
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