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Mental Health Equity in a Post-Pandemic Maryland

December 9, 2021 @ 9:00 am - 4:00 pm EST

The Maryland Department of Health (MDH) Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities (MHHD) today announced that this year’s annual health equity conference – Mental Health Equity in a Post-Pandemic Maryland – will take place virtually on Thursday, Dec. 9, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event will cover topics including equity in the diagnosis and treatment of depression, the role of health literacy in mental health equity, adverse childhood experiences, inequities in opioid use disorders and more.

“The full impact this pandemic is having on mental health and substance use will not be fully understood for some time. However it is critical that we begin actively examining how Maryland’s minority communities are being disproportionately affected,” said MDH Secretary Dennis R. Schrader. “By bringing together our state’s leaders and experts we will examine what systems are currently working and what we need to rethink and change.”

Racial and ethnic minority groups have experienced disparities in mental health and substance misuse related to access to care, psychosocial stress, and social determinants of health, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to the MDH Vital Statistic Administration, opioid related deaths between 2018 and 2020 increased by 5 percent for White Marylanders, 35 percent for Black Marylanders, and 55 percent for other races. Black Marylanders were also more likely to report exposure to adverse childhood experiences and toxic stress compared to White Marylanders, according to the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey Results. According to the CDC and Maryland health officials, addressing these disparities, especially during the pandemic, requires interventions tailored for racial and ethnic minority groups.

This year’s conference will address these issues through a series of topical breakout sessions. Conference speakers include:

· State Sen. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam (Ret.), Past Vice-Chair, Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee
· State Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk, Vice-Chair, Health and Government Operations Committee
· MDH Secretary Dennis R. Schrader
· MDH Deputy Secretary for Public Health Dr. Jinlene Chan
· MDH Minority Health and Health Disparities Director Dr. Noel Brathwaite
· MDH Deputy Secretary for Behavioral Health Dr. Aliya Jones
· MDH Deputy Secretary for Medicaid Steven Schuh
· University of Maryland Maryland Center for Health Equity Director Dr. Stephen Thomas

Also during this year’s conference, the annual Shirley Nathan-Pulliam Health Equity Leadership Award will be presented to Dr. Lisa Cooper and Dr. Kim Sydnor. Dr. Cooper is a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health and currently serves as Director for the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Equity. Dr. Sydnor is the Dean of the School of Community Health and Policy at Morgan State University and serves as Associate Professor for the Department of Behavioral Health Sciences.

Joyce Opher will be recognized as recipient of the Health Equity Excellence in Community Advocacy Award. Opher is the Executive Director of the Eastern Shore Wellness Solutions, a community-based, health equity organization serving marginalized and underserved populations on the Eastern Shore.

Conference participation is open to the public. Registration for the event is $25 for individuals, $20 for each member of a registered group and $15 for students. To register for the conference, visit


December 9, 2021
9:00 am - 4:00 pm EST
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