For the approximately 58 million Latinos1 living in the United States, finding access to mental health care that they can identify with poses significant challenges. Only 5% of physicians identify as Latino2 and further, only 1% of all U.S. psychologist practitioners identify themselves as Latino.7 This void has had an impact on the way mental health is addressed in Latino communities. This is significant, as common mental health issues like anxiety, major depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder may go untreated due to lack of information, cultural differences and language barriers.3 In fact, only 1 in 10 Latinos with a mental disorder use mental health services from a general health care provider.3 And for the mental health workforce, lack of racial diversity, language barriers, and increasing costs serve as major factors in providing access to adequate care.
Community Health Workers (CHWs), known for serving as a trust-worthy liaison between medical professionals and their community, have been proven to improve access to and quality of care in underserved communities4. They are a popular alternative answer to the lack of culturally competent mental health physicians. CHWs can translate educational materials, provide in-depth knowledge of social norms, and help navigate patients through the health care system gaining the trust of community members in the process. Interest in the use of culturally-embedded, community-oriented CHWs to address mental health is growing. This is good news for millions of Latinos across the US.
MHP Salud created Salud Para Todos (Health for All), a program that provides community education sessions on mental health topics such as stress, domestic violence, substance abuse and the relationship between chronic disease and mental health. Salud Para Todos helps improve communities by addressing the stigma around mental health and encouraging the community to be accepting of those facing emotional challenges.11
The classes address major entry-point barriers for Latinos. In 2015, Salud Para Todos was delivered to residents of rural colonias in Hidalgo County, Texas. It reached 2,076 people, out of which, 276 participated in group education classes. Knowledge amongst those participants around mental health improved. At the baseline, participants scored an average of 42% on a brief knowledge survey compared to an average score of 96% after completion of the course. The knowledge gained can be used to combat the stigma Latinos have around mental health.
There is further evidence of the success of mental health programs that utilize CHWs. The Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved conducted a study of 9 CHW-led mental health interventions which served a total of 1,330 individuals, half of which were recent migrants and did not speak English. They found that 8 of the 9 were effective at addressing participants’ mental health needs.12 Again, suggesting that CHWs can impact entry point barriers to mental health in communities that suffer from less access to resources.
The future of CHW-led mental health programs looks promising. Overall the CHW workforce is expected to grow 16% by 202614. With the Latino population expected to grow to 24.6% by 204513, mental health issue will rise and more mental health workers who are culturally equipped to provide services will be needed. In the meantime, programs like Salud Para Todos are creating easier pathways and support to implement Community Health Worker led programs across the nation.
Visit MHP Salud’s FREE Resource page to download the Salud Para Todos Implementation Guide and program manual (Available in English and Spanish).
MHP Salud has over thirty years of experience implementing CHW programs and training organizations looking to start and/or strengthen their own CHW programs. For more information about MHP Salud, our services, and how we can help you, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org