Strategies for Outreaching and Engaging Communities of Color: A Pathway to Reducing Disparities

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) had released a brief guidance from SAMHSA’s Office of Behavioral Health Equity for state administrators and state grantees.

A confluence of events—the COVID-19 pandemic, the associated economic crisis, and the widespread racially- focused protests and demonstrations across the country—has highlighted glaring inequities for racial and ethnic minority communities. These crises did not create race-based health disparities but have magnified them to deadly proportions. And, these crises have significant implications for mental health and exacerbate the already poor access to behavioral health services in Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities.

SAMHSA is charged with providing funding to states and communities to promote prevention, treatment and recovery from mental and substance use disorders. SAMHSA is also committed to ensuring that underserved populations, particularly ethnic and racial minority communities, receive a fair share of these federal resources. Unfortunately, as SAMHSA examines the outcomes and performance data of these investments, it is clear that populations of color remain markedly underserved.

As the COVID-19 pandemic commands the attention of our country, it also presents an extraordinary opportunity to advance health equity and eliminate structural and racial barriers to health and well-being for vulnerable and marginalized populations.

This brief guidance aims to assist State leadership and State grant recipients achieve greater inclusion of people of color in SAMHSA investments and programs. Without investing in these communities, research has repeatedly shown that “only a few boats will rise, most will flounder, and many will sink.” Wider disparities impact all segments of society.

Population: Everyone


  • Read the full brief guidance Strategies for Outreaching and Engaging Communities of Color: A Pathway to Reducing Disparities.
  • Learn more about the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
  • Access SAMSHA’s resource library on COVID-19.
  • Learn more about COVID-19 on the national website.

Date: 2020