October 1, 2022

September 11, 2022, 12:00 PM HST

The state will create a new national center to provide access to culturally and linguistically appropriate behavioral health services for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders thanks to a federal grant.

The Hawai‘i Department of Health will receive nearly $3.5 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services throughout the next five years to establish the first-of-its-kind Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Behavioral Health Center of Excellence. The center will not only promote behavioral health information and practices for these communities, it will also provide training, technical assistance and consultation to practitioners, educators and community organizations.

“Truly responsive behavioral health services must address stigma and provide resources that address cultural trauma and culturally-informed treatment,” Marian Tsuji, the Health Department’s deputy director of behavioral health, said in a press release. “We are honored to lead this national Center of Excellence to bring together cultural practitioners, behavioral health experts and other stakeholders to ensure that we are meeting systemic behavioral health needs of our diverse communities.”

Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are the fastest-growing ethnic minority group in the United States but are the least likely to receive care for mental illness. More than 76% of people in these communities diagnosed with a mental illness and 93% with substance use disorder do not receive treatment.

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The new national center will also provide guidance on best practices for improving engagement and retention of behavioral health professionals from the three ethnic communities and serve as an accessible and trusted clearinghouse for evidence-based behavioral health resources and products.

“Today’s announcement is a key step in the Biden-Harris administration’s efforts to eliminate health disparities affecting (Asian American) and (Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander) communities,” Krystal Ka‘ai, executive director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. “This new center will provide access to culturally and linguistically appropriate behavioral health services that are essential as our communities continue to grapple with the effects of the pandemic and anti-Asian violence.”

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