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Embracing Change – Diversity and Connectivity in behavioral health

By Dr. Susie Villalobos, Director, National Hispanic and Latino Addiction & Prevention Technology Transfer Centers

The lives and livelihoods of many Hispanic and Latino Americans were deeply affected by the impact of COVID-19. The spotlight reminded us of the continued racial and ethnic inequalities in health and healthcare. The quality, experience, and access remain stagnant as the socio-economic vulnerability increased issues of substance use, mental health disorders, and overall negative outcomes (Goldman, N., 2018).

The National Hispanic and Latino ATTC and PTTC continue to collaborate with community agencies and Regional TTCs around the nation in serving the afflicted diverse communities. A common word used in the development of our products is "resiliency"!

Resiliency of the community. Courage of the individual. And pride in the culture.

Hispanic Heritage Month

The Hispanic population in the United States is the largest ethnic minority with over 60.6 million people (Ramirez, A.G., 2021). This year's theme for Hispanic Heritage Month, "Unidos: Inclusivity for a Stronger Nation" imparts the reinforcement of diverse voices and perspectives in building stronger connections.

From September 15 through October 15, we celebrate the Hispanic/Latino and Latinx culture, focusing on the heritage of our diverse citizens from the Latin American countries of Brazil, Spain, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic.

As the NHL-ATTC and PTTC and parent agency the National Latino Behavioral Association (NLBHA), we celebrate our culture during the month by promoting diversity and the success of the contributions Hispanic Americans have made throughout history. Our National Latino Behavioral Health Conference on September 15 and 16 at the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, coincides with the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month. The conference agenda highlights the innovative, culturally responsive, and linguistically appropriate workshops from across our networks. Our keynote speakers will highlight the theme of our conference focusing on Latino Behavioral Health Equity, and finish the two-day event in a charity celebration on 16 de Septiembre with a musical tribute to Selena and Vicente Fernandez, while raising money for students studying in the field of behavioral health.

Connecting with community

Collaborative efforts by the NHL-ATTC and PTTC have produced three exciting new learning series focused on the workforce development of behavioral health providers working with Hispanic/Latino/Latinx communities.

Our first series dug deep into Understanding, Going Through, and Managing Loss, Grief, and Bereavement: Life with the Covid-19 pandemic for Latinos with a view on Latino Men. The series was led by Elizabeth Robles, a certified thanatologist, and garnered over 200 attendees.

The second virtual learning series, “A Cultural Adaptation of Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment, (SBIRT) for Working with Hispanic and Latinx Communities” led by Diana Padilla, talks in depth about the foundational cultural principles of “Cultural Humility” and “Culturally Responsive Services” and the relevancy of beliefs, practices, and linguistic needs of diverse communities.

And finally, wrapping up with Dr. Marilyn Sampilo in a four-part series entitled: Accelerating Training in Behavioral Health Equity: A Learning Series for Trainees, designed to enhance education and training related to health equity for current behavioral health trainees.

Embracing equity

As we end Year 4 with a menu of services for our Hispanic/Latino/Latinx serving agencies, we are proud to move forward with new collaborations on the horizon.

We have plans for a national assessment in identifying the needs of our Spanish-speaking peer recovery specialists. Our podcast Latinos Con Voz, produced by our ATTC and PTTC team, created over six series, in English, Spanish and Portuguese, and will develop new episodes focused on Suicide Prevention, Stimulant use Treatment, and Trauma Informed Care in rural communities.

Our fifth issue of the Cultivating Wellness newsletter will be out in September. With the development of these products, we promote and advocate for a shift in understanding an intersectional approach among providers, that considers structural and impactful factors in bridging health advocacy and social equality.

Inequality of services plays a central role in determining one's mental health, opportunity, and well-being. 1 in only 10 Latino citizens in the U.S. seeks mental health services (Vahratian, A., 2021).

We heed the call to increase access and build a behavioral health workforce that mirrors its population. Only then do we facilitate equity, embrace change, and promote access to basic human rights including health. We look forward to our fifth year as a National Hispanic Latino ATTC and PTTC to continue our work for multilingual programming, influencing health advocacy, and impacting the experience of underserved groups to inspire large-scale systems change.

About the author:

Dr. Susie Villalobos is the Director for the National Latino Hispanic Addiction and Prevention Technology Transfer Centers. Before joining NLBHA, Dr. Villalobos had worked with academic institutions and non-profits as a public advocate and researcher by implementing and managing clinical and socio-behavioral studies/programs. Her expertise in working with local, State and Federal agencies stems from her associations with CBO’s focused on activities committed to focusing on health disparities among Latino populations living and working on the U.S. – Mexico Border. Dr. Villalobos in her capacity as Regional Evaluator for the State of Texas, in Public Health Region 10 provided leadership in data analysis, data optimization, policy analysis and forecasting. She is a 2020-2021 graduate from the National Hispanic Latino and National Latino Behavioral Health Leadership Academy. She is particularly passionate about tackling issues faced by Latino populations across, age, race, gender, and biographical location.

Dr. Villalobos received her doctorate degree in Educational Administration and Leadership from the Department of Education at the University of Texas at El Paso and a master’s degree in Educational Psychology/focused on Community Counseling from the Department of Education at the University of Texas at El Paso.

Read this article in Spanish.

Read this article in Portuguese. 

References:

Goldman, N., Glei, D. A., & Weinstein, M. (2018). Declining mental health among disadvantaged Americans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115(28), 7290-7295.

Ramirez, A. G., Lepe, R., & Cigarroa, F. (2021). Uplifting the Latino population from obscurity to the forefront of health care, public health intervention, and societal presence. JAMA, 326(7), 597-598.

Vahratian, A., Blumberg, S. J., Terlizzi, E. P., & Schiller, J. S. (2021). Symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder and use of mental health care among adults during the COVID-19 pandemic—United States, August 2020–February 2021. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 70(13), 490.

Published:
09/15/2022
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The opinions expressed herein are the views of the authors and do not reflect the official position of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), SAMHSA, CSAT or the ATTC Network. No official support or endorsement of DHHS, SAMHSA, or CSAT for the opinions of authors presented in this e-publication is intended or should be inferred.

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