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Soc Sci Med. 2011 Jan;72(2):230-7. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2010.10.027. Epub 2010 Nov 18.

Limited English proficient Asian Americans: Threshold language policy and access to mental health treatment.

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1
School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, CA, United States. snowden@berkeley.edu

Abstract

The importance of providing timely, effective mental health services is increasingly recognized worldwide, and language barriers are a formidable obstacle to achieving this objective. Threshold language policy is one response implemented by California and other states within the U.S., in accordance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs receiving federal funding. This policy mandates language assistance services for Medicaid enrollees whose primary language is other than English once their population size reaches a designated level. Medicaid is the federal-state-funded health insurance program for specific classifications of low-income Americans. This study evaluated the impact of threshold language policy on Vietnamese, Cantonese, Hmong, and Cambodian limited English proficiency persons' use of public mental health services in California. Using random-effects regression on 247 observations, we regressed aggregate Vietnamese, Cantonese, Hmong, and Cambodian Medicaid mental health service penetration rates on an indicator of the threshold language policy's implementation, while controlling for a linear time trend and the effects of non-threshold language assistance programming. Immediately after implementation, threshold language policy requirements were associated with a penetration rate increase among this population. The penetration rate increase became greater after accounting for the impact of concurrent language assistance. However, this increase diminished over time. The findings indicate that, at least in the short run, language assistance measures requiring reasonable accommodations once populations of LEP persons reach a specified size have detectable effects on their mental health service use. These requirements increase the number of mental health consumers, but appear to provide declining benefit over time. California's threshold language policy provides one example of how public or national health systems worldwide may attempt to address the issue of equity of mental health service access for burgeoning immigrant/migrant populations with language assistance needs.

PMID:
21144636
DOI:
10.1016/j.socscimed.2010.10.027
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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