Mental Health America has been awarded a $750,000 grant by Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation to develop culturally appropriate support for Native Americans with serious mental illness and in rural and frontier communities. The funding will be used to develop a peer-to-peer program for use in the Navajo and Ute Nations region in tribal lands in the Four Corners area [where the borders of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona meet.
Mental Health America will also create education programs to help reduce the stigma and discrimination around mental health disabilities in the frontier and tribal lands of North Dakota.
Mental Health America will work with MHA affiliates in Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, and North Dakota to implement the program.
Many obstacles exist that prevent adequate and culturally appropriate behavioral health care in rural areas and for Native American populations. These include scarcity of professional staff, discrimination and social stigma, insufficient integration of behavioral [mental and substance abuse] with physical health.
Native Americans suffer from higher rates of suicide, alcohol abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, fetal alcohol syndrome, poverty, homelessness, and unemployment than any other cultural group. Twenty-four percent of Native Americans lack health insurance, compared with 16 percent of the U.S. population.
Mental Health America will work through its affiliates to create Tribal Behavioral Councils and a trained corps of tribal mental health care providers in the regions. The project will become self sustaining once consumers are certified as peer specialists and are employed in agencies in their region. In North Dakota, the program will create awareness campaigns and supportive policies to reduce increasing discrimination and stigmas around mental health disabilities within the distinctly frontier and tribal lands.
Once certified peer specialists are hired, the project will begin to be self-sustaining and will not require grant funding.
Source: Mental Health America News Release, 3/31/2009