Date of Conferral



Doctor of Social Work (DSW)


Social Work


Elizabeth . Walker


Stigma is one of the most significant barriers to access and utilization of mental health services in the United States. Delays in receiving mental health services significantly contribute to health disparities and poor health outcomes. Social workers play an integral part in implementing best practices within health care settings and reducing health inequities impacting vulnerable populations. The purpose of this qualitative action research study was to explore social work service providers perceptions' toward stigma and how it affects mental health services among patients in California's Medicaid program. Stigma theory was applied to gain an understanding of how stigma interacts and affects health care services. Interview data were collected from a single focus group meeting with five social work service providers employed within integrated health care facilities. Thematic analysis was used to analyze the data. Findings indicated socio-cultural and administrative factors were the most significant barriers social workers perceived as impacting treatment services among stigmatized patients. Participants also identified an assortment of stigma reduction strategies to mitigate stigma within clinical settings. Recommendations from the researcher were identified in addressing perceived gaps between policy and practice. The findings may be used to strengthen patient-centered care services among vulnerable groups. The findings of this study may also be instrumental in bringing about social change through encouraging advocacy for training on stigma in health care settings to improve treatment outcomes among stigmatized groups.