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Summer 2013, Volume 21, Number 3

Enrolling Individuals from Diverse Racial and Ethnic Populations

Enrollment in the new health insurance options available under the Affordable Care Act can seem daunting to anyone. For racial and ethnic minorities, who are more likely to be uninsured currently, there may be other challenges.

"Racial and ethnic minorities may have language barriers, so the information that's put out may be hard for them to understand," said Juliet Bui, a Public Health Analyst in SAMHSA's Office of Behavioral Health Equity. "They may have some distrust of public programs and connecting with government offices. Add a behavioral health condition on top of that," she said, "and the challenges multiply."

Making sure that racial and ethnic minorities can overcome these and other barriers and take advantage of new health insurance options is the goal of the Office of Behavioral Health Equity's Health Care Reform Community of Practice. The participants are four minority behavioral health associations: the National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association, National Leadership Council on African American Behavioral Health, National Council of Urban Indian Health, and National Latino Behavioral Health Association.

The grantees have come together in a learning marketplace to share knowledge about the challenges of reaching out to racial and ethnic minorities, plus culturally appropriate strategies for overcoming such challenges.

Each organization has surveyed its members about what has worked in the past when it comes to reaching out to their constituents or enrolling them in programs like Medicaid. These practices will be collected in an online repository by the National Network to Eliminate Disparities in Behavioral Health Exit Disclaimer, a SAMHSA-funded project that offers information-sharing, training, and technical assistance to organizations dedicated to diverse communities' behavioral health needs.

The four grantees will also identify a community enrollment consultant, which will be a community-based organization that will disseminate effective practices and serve as a resource to other organizations that want to get members of their communities enrolled.

For the National Latino Behavioral Health Association, participation in the initiative has already resulted in the creation of a compendium of best outreach and enrollment practices.

One successful approach is the use of promotores de salud, bilingual community educators who have the community's trust as well as intimate knowledge of community members' lives, including their insurance status. Another effective practice is the feria de salud, or health fair. "These health fairs create a safe venue for accessing information about enrollment," said Frederick R. Sandoval, M.P.A., the association's Operations Manager. "They're familiar and welcoming."

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