Black History Month: Hope for Equality in Substance Use Disorder Treatment

Featuring guest author Sheila Coleman, LMSW, DSW(c)

The IHAT Institute wants to thank Sheila Coleman, LMSW, DSW(c) who is the Senior Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging with our partner Aware Recovery Care.  She took the time to put together valuable information about the inequality in Substance Use Treatment that people of color have both historically and presently have faced.  She also has shared some hope for change that has been initiated by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). 

Nearly one in five U.S. adults have a mental illness, and within certain racial and ethnic groups, the  rates of anxiety and depression are even higher. Historically, there have been many barriers to treatment and recovery faced by people of color. Institutional racism, poverty, disproportionate criminalization, and mistreatment at the hands of the medical community have made getting treatment for substance use disorder, which is inherently challenging, more difficult or out of reach. Other factors, such as being underinsured, limited financial resources, the stigma associated with not only getting help, but of also being  diagnosed with a disorder decreases the likelihood of accessing treatment for mental health issues.

The ongoing opioid epidemic in the U.S. has been declared a national public health emergency and has been responded to with a sense of urgency within White suburban and rural communities. However, less attention has been focused on  underserved communities of color which are experiencing an increase in opioid related deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2020, death rates were twice as high among African Americans in lower income counties than in those with less income inequality. During the same period, death rates for older Black men were 7 times higher than their white counterparts.

Thankfully the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP) and the Joint Commission are implementing strategies for healthcare providers to mitigate health disparities and promote health equity by accounting for social determinants of health during the treatment planning process. We must recognize that a “one-size-fits-all” approach to health care will only serve to deepen the entrenchment of marginalizing practices and cause further harm to people of color. A willingness to create and implement a multicultural approach to treatment delivered by a culturally sensitive health care system is our best way forward. At Aware, we are committed to fostering a culture of  inclusivity which will support our efforts to provide comprehensive,  culturally responsive interventions for our clients. 

The In-Home Addiction Treatment (IHAT) Institute is offering healthcare professionals an assessment based certificate that enables them to support individuals of all backgrounds in the recovery process and to increase access to care through this unique and innovative modality.  It’s a New Year and time for healthcare professionals to try something different!  This certificate for IHAT providers is available in CT, MA, RI, NH, ME, VA, FL, IN and most recently Kentucky.


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