SAMHSA Celebrates Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Date: May 17, 2022 Categories: Minority Health, Mental Health, Substance Use

By: Mary Roary, Ph.D., M.B.A, Director, Office of Behavioral Health Equity , Perry Chan, M.S., Public Health Advisor, Office of Behavioral Health Equity and Victoria Chau, Ph.D., M.P.H., Social Science Analyst, Office of Behavioral Health Equity


May is recognized as Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month and Mental Health Awareness Month. In May, many events and activities are planned to celebrate the history, achievements, and contributions of AANHPI communities, while other events aim to raise awareness of mental health to individuals and communities. SAMHSA regularly brings together both observances in its everyday work to advance behavioral health equity for AANHPIs. In this blog post, SAMHSA is uniquely positioned to highlight the value of both observance months through the announcement of a new funding opportunity to address the behavioral health of AANHPIs. AANHPIs are a heterogeneous group that include people with ancestry from the continent of Asia and the Pacific Islands from more than 50 ethnicities, with over 100 languages and dialects. There are distinct differences across and within the AA, NH, and PI ethnicities. They also represent a wide range of socioeconomic statuses, geographic residence locations, primary languages, levels of English proficiency, nativity statuses (U.S. born or not), immigration statuses, religions, and more. Differences in behavioral health needs also exist. AANHPI communities demonstrate various levels of understanding of mental health and hold different views of substance use disorder. Social stigma, shame, religion, lack of culturally and linguistically appropriate services, and the model minority myth may prevent many community members from talking about mental health and substance use issues and seeking care when needed. SAMHSA commits to advancing behavioral health equity to ensure that quality health care is accessible for all populations regardless of the individual’s race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, or geographical location. This includes access to prevention, treatment, and recovery services for mental and substance use disorders. In response to the behavioral health needs of AANHPIs, SAMHSA is investing in AANHPI communities by establishing the AA, NH, and PI Behavioral Health Center of Excellence (AANHPI-CoE) in Fiscal Year 2022. The purpose of this program is to develop and disseminate training and technical assistance for behavioral healthcare providers, community-based and faith-based organizations, research institutions, and federal entities on issues related to advancing behavioral health equity for AANHPI communities. For more information, please read the Notice of Funding Opportunity. SAMHSA also provides applicants with valuable information about preparing a strong grant application. In support of SAMHSA’s mission, the Office of Behavioral Health Equity (OBHE) organizes various activities to enhance the behavioral health and well-being of AANHPI communities. Through its National Network to Eliminate Disparities in Behavioral Health (NNED) NNEDLearn annual training, participants develop their skills in evidence-supported and culturally appropriate mental illness and substance use prevention and treatment practices and to support practice implementation. One of the NNEDLearn training tracks, Achieving Whole Health, provides the tools and skills to help AANHPI communities make healthy decisions. In addition, OBHE organizes public events to engage the community. In February 2022, OBHE hosted a Diversity Inclusion Project Showcase for Hawai’i and Pacific Islands. This was a unique opportunity for behavioral health organizations in the Pacific region to showcase their work in the behavioral health space to include successes, challenges, needs and highlights of future plans. SAMHSA has a number of resources for AANHPI communities. For more information, please visit:

  • SAMHSA AANHPI webpage

  • NNED Hawai’i and Pacific Islands Diversity Inclusion Project Showcase

  • NNEDLearn: Achieving Whole Health

  • Blog Post: One size does not fit all: Appreciating the diversity of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AANHPIs) and the Implications for Mental Health

  • NNED Virtual Roundtable – Communities Respond to COVID-19: Implications for Asian Pacific Islanders


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