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Combatting Inequities in Behavioral Health


  • Underserved communities continue to experience behavioral health disparities and inequitable access to quality care.
  • Abt is helping SAMHSA advance behavioral health equity through various initiatives.
  • Abt team will support community-drive approaches to improving behavioral health in underserved, marginalized populations.
The Challenge

Underserved and historically marginalized communities continue to experience disparities in behavioral health outcomes. Linguistic and cultural barriers, stigmatized pathways to care, lack of culturally adapted evidence-based interventions, and lack of diversity in the workforce intersect with disparities in insurance coverage to result in inequitable access to quality care and perpetuation of disparities.

The Approach

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Office of Behavioral Health Equity (OBHE) contracted with Abt and partner Change Matrix to support its mission to advance equity in behavioral health care for marginalized and underserved communities through the Achieving Behavioral Health Equity (ABHE) initiative. The ABHE supports the signature programs and initiatives across all five of OBHE’s domains: policy; data; workforce development and practice improvement; communications; and technical assistance, partnerships, and customer service. 

Abt and Change Matrix assist SAMHSA’s OBHE in policy and program support, knowledge development and application, resource and product development, best practice and quality improvement strategy compilation, and capacity building for community-based organizations in their efforts to build stronger behavioral health systems at national and community levels. By fostering ongoing partnerships, collaboration, and innovation with under-resourced communities that bear a disproportionate share of the nation’s behavioral health challenges, the goal is to improve behavioral health in communities that have been historically underserved and potentially benefit all populations.

Key components of Abt’s approach include:

  • Designing and implementing consultations with varied audiences with expertise and lived experience through a Behavioral Health Equity Steering Committee, technical expert panels, and listening sessions
  • Supporting and maintaining the National Network to Eliminate Disparities in Behavioral Health (NNED), a virtual network of CBOs addressing behavioral health issues in diverse communities, through shared virtual workspace, partnership opportunities, a repository of behavioral health resources, and training opportunities to expand service capacity
  • Delivering capacity building activities for CBOs serving under-resourced communities through education and training workshops, partnership development, equity dialogues, learning collaboratives, and resource material development
  • Analyzing behavioral health disparity research and data to identify responsive community engagement strategies and interventions
  • Advising and supporting both OBHE and NNED web site design and function to enhance their reach and impact.
The Results

Through the ABHE Initiative, Abt will support over 1,300 community-based organizations addressing behavioral health needs of under-resourced populations through capacity building assistance, identification and dissemination of culturally adapted and community driven interventions, and development of resource material.

Learn more:

  • SAMHSA Awards Abt Team Behavioral Health Equity Contract (News Release)