Biden-Harris Administration Hosts Inaugural Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Mental Health Summit
Mental health professionals, federal policymakers, and community leaders gather to advance equity and improve access to behavioral health care for AA and NHPIs.
Historic event builds on President Biden’s Mental Health Strategy and the Administration’s unprecedented investments to connect more Americans to care.
WASHINGTON, DC – On Thursday, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (WHIAANHPI), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) hosted an in-person summit focused on improving equity and access to behavioral health care for Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AA and NHPI) communities.
Held in recognition of National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, the historic event featured officials from key federal agencies, mental health professionals, researchers, federal policymakers, community organizations, and Biden-Harris Administration leaders -- including members of President Biden’s Cabinet. Through five issue-specific conversations, attendees worked to identify innovative federal and local solutions for the unique behavioral health challenges AA and NHPIs face.
“The well-being of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander individuals and families hold tremendous significance in our efforts to build a healthier nation,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra. “At HHS, we embrace cultural competency and are committed to making behavioral health services accessible to underserved communities. This inaugural event will help to strengthen our efforts around behavioral health for AA and NHPIs.”
“If we want to raise the bar in education, we must ensure our students feel safe, seen, and supported while at school. Yet the pandemic led to troubling declines in mental health for all students, including our Asian American, Pacific Islander, and Native Hawaiian students,” said U.S Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “I’m grateful to WHIAANHPI, SAMHSA, and agency partners for centering this Summit around what works in providing proactive mental health supports for our students, including building capacity, growing the profession of school-based mental health services providers, and focusing on sustainability for the benefit of our youth.”
“Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders face unique barriers to behavioral health care, and today’s summit is a critical step in destigmatizing psychological needs, improving health outcomes, and expanding access to quality, affordable mental health services for our communities,” said Krystal Ka‘ai, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. “Because the AA and NHPI population is not monolithic, it is important to not only recognize the health disparities the whole community faces, but also the specific, distinct health inequities among these communities.”
“Our national survey data shows that Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders have significant mental health needs and concerns,” said Dr. Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, HHS Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and leader of SAMHSA. “We were pleased to co-host this mental health summit to convene critical stakeholders and partners to generate strategies that will improve access to high quality, culturally relevant services and supports for these very diverse communities, while also building on their unique strengths and cultural traditions.”
AA and NHPI communities have been deeply impacted by America’s mental health crisis, with the COVID-19 pandemic and anti-Asian sentiment fueling a rise in depression, anxiety, stress, and physical symptoms. According to federal data, in 2020, suicide was the leading cause of death among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, ages 10 to 19, and the second leading cause of death among those ages 20-34. Meanwhile, AA and NHPIs are some of the least likely communities to seek mental health treatment due to longstanding barriers – including cultural stigma, the lack of culturally competent care providers, and language barriers.
Thursday’s event, the first AA and NHPI mental health summit ever convened the Biden-Harris Administration, is the direct result of a May 2022 recommendation from the President’s Advisory Commission on AA and NHPIs. It also follows the release of the Administration’s first-ever national strategy to advance equity and opportunity for AA and NHPI communities in January 2023, and builds on President Biden’s comprehensive national strategy to transform how mental health is understood and treated.
In May 2021, President Joe Biden re-established and reinvigorated the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders through Executive Order 14031. The Initiative engages federal agencies to improve interagency policymaking, program development, and outreach, and address barriers impacting AA and NHPIs across the country.
Welcome and Opening Remarks
- Krystal Ka‘ai, Executive Director, White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (WHIAANHPI) and the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders
- Secretary Xavier Becerra, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, WHIAANHPI Co-Chair
- Secretary Miguel Cardona, U.S. Department of Education
- Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Summit Objectives and Introductions
- Larke Huang, Director, Office of Behavioral Health Equity, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- Rachele Espiritu, Founding Partner, Change Matrix, Meeting Facilitator
Session 1: The Impact of Hate Crimes, Violence, Racism and Microaggressions on Mental Health: Harnessing Collective and Cultural Strengths
- Jessica Louie, Advocacy Intern, Public Health Institute, Oakland, CA
- Manjusha Kulkarni, Executive Director for AAPI Equity Alliance, Co-Founder of Stop AAPI Hate, Los Angeles, CA
- Anne Saw, Associate Professor, Clinical-Community Psychology, DePaul University, Chicago, IL
- Warren Y.K. Ng, President, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
- Helen Hsu, President, American Psychological Association Division 45: Society for the Psychological Study of Culture, Ethnicity and Race
- Facilitator: Nellie Tran, Professor, Counseling and School Psychology, San Diego State University
Session 2: Beyond Stigma: Expanding Access, Integrating Care
- Wesley Chen, Advocacy Intern, Public Health Institute, Oakland, CA
- Julia Liou, CEO, Asian Health Services, Oakland, CA
- Laura Swartzendruber, Director of Medical Outpatient Services, My Health My Resources, Tarrant County, TX
- Alyssa Vang, Clinical Director, Vanguard Mental Health & Wellness Clinic, Woodbury, MN
- Sheri Daniels, Executive Director, Papa ola Lōkahi, Honolulu, HI
- Facilitator: DJ Ida, Executive Director, National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association, Denver, CO
Keynote Speaker: Richard Lui, Anchor and Journalist, MSNBC/NBC News
Fireside Chat: Federal and Local Approaches to Advancing Equity and Mental Well-Being for AA and NHPI Communities
- January Contreras, Assistant Secretary for the Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- Katherine Neas, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, U.S. Department of Education
- Marian Tsuji, Deputy Director of Behavioral Health, Hawaii Department of Health
- Moderator: Krystal Ka‘ai, Executive Director, WHIAANHPI
Session 3: Navigating Innovative Models, Embracing New Solutions
- Pata Suyemoto, Director, National AAPI Empowerment Network
- Beverlyn Coleman, Clinical Director, Ma’lak Na Ha’åni – Bright Futures, WestCare of Guam
- John Palmieri, Deputy Director, Office of 988, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- David DeVoursney, Division Director, Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- Nina Yuen-Loc, Director, Behavioral Health Division, Los Angeles Chinatown Service Center, a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic
- Facilitator: Trina Dutta, Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Session 4: Leading with Language, Community, and Culture for AA and NHPI Mental Health
- Anni Chung, CEO, Self Help for the Elderly, San Francisco, CA
- Shahin Sebastian, Program Manager, Cross Cultural Infotech, Germantown, MD
- Kota Takayama, Assistant Professor, Gallaudet University, Washington, DC
- David Hyams, Supervisory Policy Advisor, Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- Facilitator: Rachele Espiritu
Photos of the event can be found here.