Clearing the Way for Minorities in Need of Mental Health Care


Sponsored by Central Florida Health Care

Mental health is important for all of us, but mental health services aren’t always accessible to those who need them. This is particularly true for racial and ethnic minorities and those in underserved populations who face greater barriers to care. That’s why July is recognized as Minority Mental Health Month.

Dr. Amber Popovitz-Gale, a licensed clinical psychologist at Central Florida Health Care, has been front and center on the issue of minority mental health since the earliest days of her career, when she worked with indigenous and immigrant populations in Nebraska.

“Minority is a term historically associated with racial and cultural minorities, but for many individuals minority means identifying with a myriad of things. This could be families with diverse values, beliefs, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, language, age, etc. So you’re looking at a lot of different factors that can lead to different barriers,” she explains.

Popovitz-Gale notes that mental health resources are often not enough even for the general population, meaning minorities face even greater challenges. 

“Some of the disparities in minority care come down to access to medical care, such as due to lacking insurance coverage, plus logistical barriers — can you take off work, secure childcare, and find transportation?” she notes. “There are also language barriers, those linguistic and cultural differences that can lead to a breakdown in communications.”

To combat these language barriers, Central Florida Health Care provides translation services. 

“If a patient comes in that speaks Creole, and there’s no Creole-speaking provider on hand that day, we can get a HIPAA-compliant translator on and be able to provide adequate care and meet their needs,” she explains.

Central Florida Health Care also helps those who struggle to afford health care by offering sliding scale pricing. 

“If someone does not have insurance or the funding to be able to pay for medical care, Central Florida Health Care can do income-based payment. This does require some documentation but it allows people to get the care they need no matter their financial status,” says Popovitz-Gale. 

Telehealth services are another way that CFHC is improving access to mental health care, particularly for those that may struggle with transportation. 

“If the patient has no transport, but an internet connection, they can get the care they need.”

Greater education and training for providers are also key.

“Using evidence-based practice is important,” she explains. “If you’re working with a community with a lot of intergenerational trauma, or a community who is very spiritual, the practices you use are going to be different from the general population. And you’re going to want to know what the research says, and what has been proven effective for the population or individual you’re working with. And also, keeping up on your training and seeking out the resources that are there, which Central Florida Health Care does a great job of.”

In the future, Popovitz-Gale sees plenty of opportunities to improve minority mental health care. 

“Telehealth is something with a lot of opportunity for improvement, and it’s going to continue to get better with what we’re able to offer online,” she reflects. 

“Additionally, as stigma around mental health is reduced, we will be able to hopefully reach more individuals and get people the care they need. Also, more people in upcoming generations will hopefully see that this isn’t just the way life is. That there can be a reduction in that level of anxiety that people are just living with every day and assuming is normal.”

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