Religious congregations are often the first and only point of contact for help with mental health problems. As community gatekeepers, religious congregations can play a powerful role in linking individuals to needed mental health treatment. However, religious congregations often do not know when, how, or where to consult with mental health providers. Thus, although recognized as invaluable counterparts that can connect informal and formal systems of care, religious congregations remain a grossly untapped resource, particularly for underserved ethnic minority populations for whom there are significant disparities in access, use, and quality of mental health care. A more standardized process on how to enhance religious congregations'recognition of mental disorders and collaboration with mental health providers is needed. As an initial step, the proposed study aims to lay the foundation for an intervention that enhances congregational practices around mental health screening, referral, and consultation. The proposed study would be carried out in collaboration with a faith-based partner, West Angeles Church of God in Christ, which has over 24,000 congregants and is one of the largest Black "mega-churches" in the nation. Situated in South Los Angeles, West Angeles has extensive interactions with health, social welfare, and community organizations and provides more than 80 programs to enhance the community. West Angeles seeks to build the capacity of other congregations to engage in similar collaborative relationships and helps lead the Faith-based Community Collaborative, a network of over 300 local religious congregations. The proposed study has the following specific aims: (1) Describe the range of congregational practices in addressing mental disorders (2) Identify factors associated with religious congregations'receptivity to mental health screening, referral, and consultation (3) Develop a preliminary protocol to enhance the capacity of religious congregations'engagement in mental health screening, referral, and collaboration For Aim 1, we will conduct focus groups with key stakeholders from a purposeful sample of religious congregations with varying organizational characteristics.
For Aim 2, we will conduct a survey with the Collaborative to test hypotheses about predictors of receptivity to mental health screening, referral, and collaboration.
For Aim 3, a subset of the Collaborative will convene as a workgroup to develop a preliminary intervention aimed at enhancing RCs mental health screening, referral, and consultation, based upon findings from Aims 1 and 2 and from the literature on quality improvement collaborative care mental health interventions. Using adapted modified Delphi methods, the Collaborative will review the preliminary plan, provide feedback, make revisions, and obtain consensus on a final set of recommendations that will be presented at stakeholder feedback sessions in preparation for future wide-scale implementation efforts.
Religious congregations are often the first and only point of contact for help with mental disorders. As community gatekeepers, religious congregations can play a powerful role in linking individuals to needed treatment, particularly for ethnic minorities who continue to experience significant disparities in mental health care access and utilization. However, religious congregations remain grossly untapped resources given that they rarely refer, consult, or collaborate with mental health providers. The proposed study would lay the groundwork for a preliminary intervention aimed at enhancing religious congregations'capacity to engage in mental health screening, referral, and collaboration. The developed intervention would serve as a model on how to successfully bridge faith and mental health communities and could yield significant impact for the estimated 140.4 million Americans who are members of a religious congregation.