Report highlights need for more diversity in health care system

By Danielle Ray

March 31st, 2022

The Mental Health Association of Rhode Island (MHARI) recently released a 34-page report overseen by Ernestine Jennings, Ph.D., that shines a light on a relevant and timely issue, the need for more diversity in the health care system and among behavioral health care providers in the Ocean State.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 16.3 percent of state residents are Hispanic or Latino, 8.5 percent are Black or African American, and 3.7 percent are Asian. The report was based on an in-depth survey of close to 750 specialists and said that Rhode Island’s behavioral health-care workforce is primarily white and English speaking, with 85 percent of those specialists white, fewer than 5 percent Latino, and Blacks and Asians comprising just 2 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively, which does not adequately mirror the cultural and racial diversity of Rhode Island residents.


“The insights of providers gathered through this survey demonstrate the need for a robust commitment to mental health parity,” said MHARI Executive Director Laurie-Marie Pisciotta, who lives with mental illness, in an article published by The Providence Journal late last year.


Jennings, who has been a licensed clinical psychologist since January 2009, said that as a board member of MHARI, she is “involved in their parity initiative.”


“The current study is an extension of the original study to gather information on providers in the state and who they serve,” she said.