Latino Service Providers has received a $1 million grant to explore how Latino cultural practices promote mental and behavioral health. As part of the grant, Sonoma State University faculty and students will work with the organization and other agencies to recruit and train high school students over the next six years to identify and implement cultural practices as therapeutic practices.
Latino Service Providers President and Sonoma State University Professor Francisco H. Vázquez hopes this will open the door for MediCal and insurance companies to pay for cultural practices as mental health practices. "Our main goal is to look at how cultural practices such as mariachi music, mural painting, Aztec danza, festivals, pláticas (conversation), theatre and curanderismo promote mental and behavioral health," says Vázquez. "The next step then is to validate these practices into evidence-based practices through rigorous evaluation to potentially qualify them as a formal therapy."
Mental Health problems have been shown to disproportionately affect Latinos in Sonoma County. Farmworkers were three-times more likely to binge drink in the past 30 days when compared to U.S. adults in 2011 (47 percent vs. 18 percent), according to the 2013-14 Sonoma County Farmworker Health Survey. And when screened with the PHQ-2 depressive screening tool, female farmworkers (22 percent) were significantly more likely than male farmworkers (7 percent) to need additional screening for a depressive disorder.
The program, called "Testimonios: Reducing Mental Health Disparities for Latinos," focuses on training high school students as promotores de salud mental (mental health advocates) who will collect, disseminate and circulate information between home, school, and social media on the one hand and state evaluators, LSP, and public and private agencies on the other.
"There is a lot to do in the initial six months," says Vázquez, who is also the director of the Hutchins Institute for Public Policy at Sonoma State. "I will be talking to people in the community who already make these practices a way of life to create an advisory board, and establish collaborative agreements with KBBF Bilingual Radio, the Sonoma County Department of Health Services, Behavioral Health Division (BHD), the Health Sciences Department at Santa Rosa Junior College, Santa Rosa City Schools and Roseland School District to help us select the students and schedule their training."
By fall 2017, Vázquez hopes to have three different high schools set up with one-year classes that culminate in a certificate for students to be community mental health workers. LSP will familiarize those students with resources for mental health treatment in Sonoma County. The students will use that knowledge and take an inventory of mental health needs in their own communities, then connect those in need with the correct resource. Students will receive a stipend for their work.
Another facet is getting more Latino students interested in a career in mental health. "We are trying to create a pipeline for students to become mental health workers, because there's a tremendous lack of bilingual Latinos in that field," says Vázquez.
The grant from California Department of Public Health is funded by the Mental Health Services Act of 2004 (Proposition 63). It is part of a larger effort called the California Reducing Disparities Project (CRDP), which will allocate $60 million to five underserved groups in California: Native Americans, Latinos, African Americans, Asian Americans and the LGBTQA community.