The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded Hawaii’s Department of Health (DOH) nearly $3.5 million to create a national center focused on the mental health needs of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (AANHPI).
The first-of-its-kind institution will officially be called the AANHPI Behavioral Health Center of Excellence. According to a news release, it will promote “culturally and linguistically appropriate behavioral health information and practices” and form a leading committee that will identify issues and provide training, assistance and consultation to practitioners, educators and community organizations.
The new center lists Papa Ola Lokahi and San Jose State University as key partners. The federal funding will be distributed over the next five years.
“Truly responsive behavioral health services must address stigma and provide resources that address cultural trauma and culturally-informed treatment,” Marian Tsuji, deputy director of the Hawaii DOH’s Behavioral Health Services Administration, said in a statement. “We are honored to lead this national Center of Excellence to bring together cultural practitioners, behavioral health experts, and other stakeholders to ensure that we are meeting systemic behavioral health needs of our diverse communities.”
While AANHPIs continue to be the fastest-growing ethnic minority group in the U.S., they are least likely to receive mental health care. For one, 93 percent of those with substance abuse disorders do not receive treatment.
To address this issue, the Hawaii DOH also received nearly $700,000 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to be used for the center. Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D., SAMHSA chief and HHS assistant secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use, stressed the importance of culturally responsive care.
“People grappling with mental health and substance use disorders need and deserve culturally responsive care to help them recover. This Center of Excellence will instruct provider organizations on how to better serve members of the AA and NHPI communities across the nation,” Delphin-Rittmon said.
The Center of Excellence will also provide materials that disaggregate data by race and ethnicity. For years, national reports have lumped Asian Americans, AAPIs or AANHPIs together, resulting in statistical findings that overlook critical ethnic differences and erroneously portray the group as a monolith
Ultimately, the Center of Excellence supports the Biden-Harris administration’s goal to remove health disparities among AANHPIs. Last year, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra launched the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (WHIAANHPI) to push a “whole-of-government agenda” to advancing equity, justice and opportunity for the target communities.
“Today’s announcement is a key step in the Biden-Harris administration’s efforts to eliminate health disparities affecting AA and NHPI communities,” WHIAANHPI Executive Director Krystal Ka‘ai said. “This new center will provide access to culturally and linguistically appropriate behavioral health services that are essential as our communities continue to grapple with the effects of the pandemic and anti-Asian violence.”