In an effort to bridge the cultural gap between mental health specialists and Hispanic patients, the Chicago Community Trust and the Chicago School of Professional Psychology have announced an effort to build a network of specially trained care providers.
The Latino Mental Health Providers Network, funded by a $130,000 grant, will be run by the Chicago School’s Center for Latino Mental Health. Dr. Hector Torres, the center’s coordinator, says the lack of cultural understanding by clinicians is an understated matter.
“The issue sometimes sounds like, ‘Oh, they just want someone they like.’ Some people minimize the issue,” he says.
But when Hispanic mental health patients are unable to find a provider that can relate to their culture, “The therapy then becomes useless in some ways,” Torres says.
Enter the Chicago Community Trust.
The one-year grant, awarded in late July, will be used to hire staff members to coordinate a network of mental health providers in Chicago, and ultimately across northern Illinois. It will provide students and other practitioners with opportunities to learn about Hispanic culture. It will also address the lack of culturally competent psychologists by placing Chicago School students and staff in network clinics.
Perhaps most importantly, it will increase the access to care for mentally ill Hispanics, 70 percent of whom don’t return to clinics beyond the first visit.
“That goes a long way, in retaining them in terms of mental health,” says Dr. Virginia Quinonez, founder of the Center for Latino Mental Health.
She says there is a “desperate” need for clinicians who can relate to patients. Only 1 percent of psychologists, she says, are bilingual.
Torres says the program is currently searching for a coordinator, who will then work with a number of local agencies to determine what they would like to see in the network. He hopes to have 30 agencies involved.