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Diverse Perspectives: Part two of new study explores BIPOC identities in Ohio's behavioral health provider community

R. Stevens / CREST
This most recent part of the study breaks down the racial, ethnic, and gender identities of behavioral health providers to see if they represent those they serve.

The second part of the Behavioral Health in Ohio study was released on Tuesday. The study takes a look at different racial and ethnic groups and how they interact with mental health services.

This most recent part of the study breaks down the racial, ethnic, and gender identities of behavioral health providers. The goal was to understand the racial makeup of providers and if they properly represent those they are serving, as well as their geographic location.

According to the study, Ohioans who identified as white make up 77% of the population; those who identified as African American make up 12.5%; those who identified as Hispanic make up 4.4%; and an Other category for all other identities make up 1.9%.

The study then breaks down the professions who work in the behavioral health field by their race. The numbers show that the behavioral healthcare providers don’t accurately represent those they’re serving.

For example, white Ohioans make up the majority of Ohio's physicians at 66.41%. African-Americans only make up 4.86% of physicians, and Hispanics 3.02%.

Omesh Johar is an associate professor at Central State and participated in the study. He said he doesn’t want anyone to misinterpret the study to mean that only people of the same race can treat each other.

“We do find barriers when it comes to seeking care or the quality of care. And so, just having better representation, I mean, that could be one factor that helps to enhance the quality of services that are being provided,” he said.

Furthermore, the study also analyzes where these providers are located in the state. Many providers of color are located in cities such as Columbus, Cincinnati, and Cleveland. This leaves minority populations in rural areas further lacking in the care they need.

By having more providers who are more diverse and culturally aware, the hope is that previous barriers blocking healthcare for minority populations and therefore provide better care.

This is critical for minority populations who disproportionately experience higher rates of behavioral health issues. In Ohio and nationally, suicide death rates have risen in recent years primarily in populations including people of color and men.

Research also shows that those suffering from behavioral health issues are linked to decreased school attendance rates, a lower rate of participating in the labor workforce, and decreased earnings, all of which could further exacerbate mental health struggles.

“So just paying attention to the diversity, equity and inclusion piece, I think could help us go a long ways in being able to address some of these issues,” Johar said.

Recommendations to improve the situation includes establishing a pipeline for future BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) workers and funding.

You can read the study and all of the recommendations here.

The study was conducted by Central State University, Ohio University, the Mental Health & Addiction Advocacy Coalition, and Multiethnic Advocates for Cultural Competence, Inc.

The third and fourth parts of the study will be released before the end of the year.

Garrett is a WYSO intern and graduate of University of Dayton. He spent time covering the Dayton area with WDTN Channel 2 News after the 2019 Memorial Day Tornado outbreak. It was around this time that he began listening to NPR and fell in love with radio-based journalism. Garrett graduated from UD in May of 2021 with his Bachelor’s in Communications with a focus in journalism and graduated in May of 2022 with his Master’s. While not working at WYSO, Garrett is an avid reader, loves to play video games, and hanging out with his friends.