Progreso Latino Fund hosts discussion on mental health stigma, affordability & services in the Latino community 



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The Progreso Latino Fund recently held an online discussion addressing the stigmas, affordability, and access to mental health services in Latino communities. 

“As a community, we tend to keep things within our own family,” said Tara Davila, co-chair at Progreso Latino Fund. “And while that stigma has decreased somewhat, which is a great thing, there is still a very real challenge of not having enough clinicians who can provide culturally and linguistically appropriate services to the lovely children and their families.”

The event was held on Nov. 1 with Frances Padilla, president of Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut, as moderator. In addition to Davila, Leonoras Rodriguez, executive director at Milford Senior Center; and Brian Padilla, behavioral health director at Fair Haven Community Health Care, were the other two panelists. 

The Progreso Latino Fund is part of the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven. The group was created in 2003 with the mission to promote the educational and socio-economic well-being of Latinos in New Haven and the region, according to its website.  

The Latino Progreso Fund’s mission is to bring awareness to issues that Latinos are facing today through forums and online discussions.

During the discussion, Davila said only 8% of Latino children have engaged in behavioral health services, opposed to 14% of white children. Davila said data came from a national study done by the Latino-focused organization Salud America! called “Mental Health Research: Latino Kids’ Access to Care,” which is available on their website, https://salud-america.org/.

In addition, Davila said according to data from American Psychiatric Association, only 7% of licensed providers identify as Latino and only 5% can provide Spanish services.

The National Library of Medicine noted from 2010 to 2019, Hispanic child suicide rates increased by 92.3% nationally. “And this was before the pandemic even started, which we know had a disproportionate impact on black and brown families,” Davila said.

Brian Padilla said with the Latinx population growth in the United States, the need for mental health services is urgent.

“Studies have shown that the COVID-19 pandemic has made things worse,” he said. “Hispanic adults report a need for emotional support as a result.”

According to Brian Padilla, receiving care almost seems impossible for Hispanic and Latino families due to how expensive coverage can be.

“You know, if we’re talking about the traditional weekly service provision, we’re talking about 25 bucks per visit, which adds up to 100 bucks per month,” he said. “So we offer support, but we create a new problem by having a large bill.”

Culture, languageand trauma

Regionally, Fair Haven Community Health Care in New Haven is one of the organizations providing bilingual health services, with 11 of the 18 providers speaking Spanish, Brian Padilla said.  

The mission of Fair Haven, according to its website, is to improve the health and social well-being of the communities they serve through equitable, high-quality, patient-centered care that is culturally responsive.

In her profession, Rodriguez said many seniors may need to resolve childhood trauma.

“In many cases, Latino community members have moved from their homeland,” she said. “They’ve dealt with stressful life events.” 

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Rodriguez said social isolation became normal for older adults. 

“In the Latino family, familia is important,” she said. “We must be there for everyone, including the seniors, especially during this time when they feel the most isolated.”



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