Addressing the multi-faceted health and mental health needs ofthe U.S. population is a complex issue that warrants attention from policymakers, clinicians, researchers, scientists, and public health professionals that can offer unique perspectives and strategies to support efforts for greater well-being among individuals. With growing diversity concerning different ethnicities, nationalities, and sexual orientation;arid with significant changes in the constellation of the myriad of risk factors that can jnfluence health'and health outcomes, it is imperative that we delineate strategic health policies, focused community-based programs, and innovative research that include an examination of evidence-based models that can improve individuals'longevity and quality of life. These issues have particular relevance for vulnerable and higli risk populations, including veterans, ex-offenders, uninsured, homeless individuals, lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender individuals (LGBT), and racial/ethnic minorities. Health and mental health disparities exist in the US. There are many factors that irifluerice these disparities, including social determinants of health such as poor education, lack of health insurance coverage, economic challenges, and impoverished environmental conditions. Important considerations for reducing health disparities may include implementation, monitoring, and tracking of local, state and national health policies;improving access to comprehensive, integrated and patient-centered quality healthcare;and promotion of culturally-centered prevention and intervention approaches. There are several key pieces of federal legislation passed by Congress that were designed to have positive health and behavioral health implications for underserved populations including the Mental Health Parity Act (1996), Second Chance Act (2008), Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (2008), and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (2010). Although collectively these health policies support the promotion of better access and utilization of health and behavioral healthcare services, the extent to which policies related to these legislative mandates are implemented remains questionable, and health disparities continue to plague our communities. Our multi-disciplinary investigative team recognizes the significance of enforcing health policies that can proliferate and support individuals seeking coverage and better healthcare. We also acknowledge the importance of providing culturally tailored integrative healthcare to holistically address physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral problems. Our proposed research study seeks to add to the existing, yet limited body of literature conceming integrated healthcare models to help address one of the most deleterious mental disorders, depression and selected co-occurring chronic health conditions. Also, we will discern the role of insurance mandates and coverage on health and mental health outcomes for selected high risk populations. Few investigations have been conducted that focus on these key areas related to health policy and examination of the components of an innovative culturally-centered integrated healthcare model targeted to ethnically and culturally diverse adults. Our ultimate goal is to help to reduce health and mental health disparities, improve health equity, and enhance the quality of life for individuals, families, and communities.
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