Consumer-Driven Standards and Guidelines in Managed Mental Health for Populations of African Descent

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Disclaimer: The set of guidelines that are included in this document are general suggestions made by the panel for consideration by clinicians, who must continue to rely on their own professional judgment and training and the individualized assessment and needs of their patients. There is no representation here that these guidelines are appropriate for any particular patient. The panel that developed these guidelines disclaim all liability and cannot be held responsible for problems that may arise from their use.

The Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research (University of Pennsylvania) is the first Center in the nation to complete a project that developed standards and guidelines in managed care for African Americans with mental illness. The Center’s multi-year project focused on eight groups of the mentally ill: Adults, African Americans, Aged, Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, Children, the Dually Diagnosed, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans. Specialty panels of mental health professionals and consumers of mental health services developed standards and guidelines for each of these groups.

The African American Panel was comprised of nineteen university professors, researchers, consumers, private sector health care executives and state mental health officials from across the United States. Their report made the following findings:

  • Mental health systems base their programs on the assumption that there are not significant differences in mental health needs by race;
  • African Americans are diagnosed more frequently with a severe mental illness than corresponding white populations;
  • Limited standards or guidelines exist specific to African American populations in either managed health care or fee-for-service health care.

To improve mental health care of African American populations in managed health care, the panel developed a comprehensive set of standards and guidelines and made the following set of recommendations:

  • Utilize cultural competency as the framework for service design and delivery;
  • Develop outcome measurement scales specific to African Americans;
  • Develop additional standards based on differences in age and gender;
  • Translate standards, guidelines, and competencies into training and education;
  • Develop a national cultural competency certification process; and
  • Include cultural competency standards and guidelines in state contracts.