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Culture can Affect Access to Alcohol, Drug Abuse Treatment for Rural Youth
Date:10/30/2007

rural, southern New Mexico. This area includes some of the highest rates of unemployment and highest percentage of people living in poverty in the country.

Researchers found practitioners believed that Hispanic families were circumspect about seeking behavioral health services because of distrust of Anglo providers, to avoid stigma of mental illness and substance abuse and the need to demonstrate self-reliance. Providers most notably considered Hispanic cultural heritage and values as obstacles to general well being. This perception, researchers report, indicates that the behavioral health providers tend to focus on culture as a site for change, thereby deemphasizing the important role of socioeconomic status in determining the social context of illness, help seeking and recovery.

From this study, changes to substance abuse treatment services can be made to better provide care for rural adolescents and their families. Researchers recommend a series of modifications to the training of behavioral health care providers. Culturally competent care includes not only providing appropriate Spanish-language services, but also education and employment opportunities for youth and families -- even those lacking legal residency. Furthermore, state and local governments should consider mechanisms that encourage the training, hiring and licensing of local behavioral health professionals who represent the cultural background of the communities in which they serve.

"Training can demonstrate how different experiences, knowledge and values cannot just be acknowledged but must be integrated and appreciated," said Dr. Gilbert A. Quintero, another researcher on the study. "Such training should first encourage providers to think reflexively about their own value systems and the status and privilege that they bring to clinical encounters with patients of varying cultural, ethnic and class backgrounds."

Dr. Willging is a medical anthropologist at PIRE's Behavior
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SOURCE Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation
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