Date of Award

Spring 5-1-2023

Document Type


First Advisor

Dr. Margo Kaatz


There are many barriers that low income individuals and populations face in accessing mental healthcare, including lack of health insurance that makes it hard to afford care, distance from clinics especially for people who live rurally, lack of transportation, inability to take time off work, and the stigma of mental illness coupled with poverty. Systemic racism in medical settings also plays a significant role in low income minority groups’ lack of access to quality care, as doctors prioritize those with insurance. Unfortunately, poverty itself can cause major stressors which puts families at higher risk for mental illness and substance abuse, all of which can lead to long term consequences for this population’s physical health as well. Since mental health services are most sparse in low income urban and rural areas, it is important for these individuals and families to have resources available to them in times they need access to mental healthcare. In researching recent advancements in facilitating access to care, organizations that provide mental health services and assistance, and advocacy that can bring about changes in the medical system, there are quite a few options to help more vulnerable populations get the care they need. These are resources along with some actionables for advocacy to address challenges that still remain. The first solution that was frequently mentioned in the research was Telehealth, which can help people who are constrained by distance, lack of transportation, or inability to take time from work. Patient education on telehealth can increase interest in usage among older minority adults, and advocating for internet access can bring about change in communities where many do not have access to broadband. Mental health apps have also been proven to be an low-effort way to prevent and treat multiple mental health conditions using treatments that are not as widely available due to cost and availability. There are several nonprofit organizations, including HRSA, SAMHSA, Mental Health America and NAMI that have health clinics that serve patients regardless of ability to pay or socioeconomic background as well as offer screening, mental health services, education, and also partake in advocacy to spread awareness around mental health for different groups. With government assistance there are also Medical plans that may cover certain mental health services, although services covered vary by state and region. Lastly, we explored the benefits of integrating mental health care into primary care, and what changes patients could advocate for in the primary care setting to facilitate the delivery of mental healthcare.