Access to Mental Health Treatment by English Language Proficiency and Race/Ethnicity

University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California, United States
Journal of General Internal Medicine (Impact Factor: 3.42). 12/2007; 22 Suppl 2(S2):289-93. DOI: 10.1007/s11606-007-0345-7
Source: PubMed


Limited English proficiency (LEP) may contribute to mental health care disparities, yet empirical data are limited.
To quantify the language barriers to mental health care by race/ethnicity using a direct measure of LEP is the objective of the study.
Cross-sectional analysis of the 2001 California Health Interview Survey is the study's design.
Adults aged 18 to 64 who provided language data (n = 41,984) were the participants of the study.
Participants were categorized into three groups by self-reported English proficiency and language spoken at home: (1) English-speaking only, (2) Bilingual, and (3) Non-English speaking. Mental health treatment was measured by self-reported use of mental health services by those reporting a mental health need.
Non-English speaking individuals had lower odds of receiving needed services (OR: 0.28; 95% CI: 0.17-0.48) than those who only spoke English, when other factors were controlled. The relationship was even more dramatic within racial/ethnic groups: non-English speaking Asian/PIs (OR = 0.15; 95% CI: 0.30-0.81) and non-English speaking Latinos (OR: 0.19; 95% CI: 0.09-0.39) had significantly lower odds of receiving services compared to Asian/PIs and Latinos who spoke only English.
LEP is associated with lower use of mental health care. Since LEP is concentrated among Asian/PIs and Latinos, it appears to contribute to racial/ethnic disparities in mental health care. Heightened attention to LEP is warranted in both mental health practice and policy.

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