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Changing Minds, Advancing Mental Health for Hispanics

Since October 2001, the New Jersey Mental Health Institute, Inc. has been spearheading efforts to address the nationwide lack of availability of, access to and the provision of quality mental health services for Hispanics; first through its award-winning and nationally and internationally recognized Changing Minds, Advancing Mental Health for Hispanics program, and now through the National Resource Center for Hispanic Mental Health.  The organization has engaged in numerous activities aimed at attaining these critical goals and has received national and international recognition for its work and contributions.   All program activities have supported the organization’s mission to promote quality mental health services through policy development initiatives, training, technical assistance, research, data collection, best practice development, and anti-stigma and anti-discrimination campaigns, and have contributed to the National Center’s creation and expansion. 

The program and project director’s activities and accomplishments include:

  • Developed the concept for and contributed to the development of a Comprehensive In-Depth Literature Review and Analysis of Hispanic Mental Health Issues with Specific Focus on Members of the Following Ethnic Groups: Cubans, Dominicans, Mexicans and Puerto Ricans.   Available in both English and Spanish, the report has been requested and disseminated nationally and internationally.  A free copy of the report can be obtained by visiting http://www.njmhi.org and clicking on Literature Review and Analysis.  A slightly edited version of this report was recently included as a chapter in a new book on Hispanic mental health titled, Mental Health Care for New Hispanic Immigrants: Innovative Approaches in Contemporary Clinical Practice, and in the Journal of Immigrant and Refugee Services. 

  • Developed and carried out a research plan to assess barriers facing Hispanics with accessing and receiving quality mental health services.  The plan included developing surveys and conducting interviews with mental health agency administrators, direct service providers, and community leaders.  The research plan also included conducting focus groups throughout the State of New Jersey in collaboration with Dr. Peter J. Guarnaccia of the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research at Rutgers University and Igda E. Martinez, Doctoral Student at Rutgers University.

  • Developed a report titled Model Mental Health Program for Hispanics that contains recommended steps mental health agencies can implement to better attract and retain Hispanics in mental health services.  The material contained in the report was developed based on research activities carried out by the NJMHI and has been disseminated nationally.  The report incorporates best practices that reflect the needs and cultural preferences of Hispanics, and aims to provide guidance to mental health agency administrators and direct service providers on how to best attract, retain and serve Hispanics in mental health programs.

  • Developed a 30-minute training video based on the Model Mental Health Program for Hispanics report titled, Salud Mental: Crossing the Cultural Divide within Mental Healthcare.  The training video has been marketed nationally and has been very well received to date.  In fact, the training video has been ordered by individuals from more than 20 states and orders continue to come in on nearly a weekly basis.  The training video is geared to educating mental health agency administrators and direct service providers on how to best attract, retain and serve Hispanics in mental health services. 

  • Conducted over 100 presentations at local, state, national and international conferences, community meetings, and other venues aimed at sharing project activities and findings, increasing interest and awareness of mental health issues impacting the Hispanic community, and educating stakeholders about the issues and needs of Hispanics with regards to accessing and receiving quality mental health services.  These venues have allowed the NJMHI to not only achieve its overall program goals, but have also allowed the NJMHI to expand its knowledge of Hispanic mental health issues, network with leading experts in the field, create a visible and credible presence within New Jersey and nationally, and stress to state and federal leaders the fact that physical and mental health are interconnected and that mental illness does not discriminate! 

  • Planned, coordinated and hosted two full-day conferences for 300 professionals each from all across New Jersey on delivering culturally competent mental health services to African Americans, Arab Americans, Asian Americans and Hispanics.  The conferences consisted of 16 workshops and a plenary session by nationally renowned expert on culturally competent mental health services, Dr. Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola.

  • Planned, coordinated and hosted a full-day conference for 300 professionals from across New Jersey on delivering culturally competent mental health services to African Americans, Arab Americans, Asian Americans and Hispanics.  The conference consisted of eight workshops offered twice and a plenary session by nationally renowned expert on culturally competent mental health services, Dr. Altha J. Stewart.

  • Presented at over 100 local, state, national and international events on an array of topics related to Hispanic mental health. These include: the First National Conference on Child Health and Child Welfare sponsored by the United States Department of Health and Human Services in 2004, the National Leadership Summit on Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities sponsored by the United States Department of Health and Human Services in January 2006, the 2004 Council of Social Work Examiners Annual Meeting and Conference, the First National Latina/o Psychological Association National Conference in 2004, the Second National Latina/o Psychological Association National Conference in 2006, the 2003 NAMI National Convention, the 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 Latino Behavioral Health Institute Annual Conferences in Los Angeles, California, and the 2005 and 2007 National Association of Puerto Rican/Hispanic Social Workers’ Annual Conferences.

  • Upon invitation, presented at three international venues on the Changing Minds program: 6th Annual Hawaii International Conference on Social Sciences in Waikiki Beach, Hawaii; 2005 World Congress of Mental Health in Cairo, Egypt; and the Inter-American Society of Psychologist Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina in June 2005.

  • Upon invitation, presented at the following venues in 2007: National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare Annual Conference, Mental Health America Annual Conference, and the National Association of Puerto Rican/Hispanic Social Workers Annual Conference.  Will also serve as the Keynote Speaker at a regional conference in Long Beach, California in November 2007 and will present a session at the 13th Annual Latino Behavioral Health Institute Annual Conference.

  • Upon invitation, served as the Keynote Speaker at three Annual Conferences - 2007 New Jersey Association of Multicultural Counseling Annual Conference, Collaborative Support Programs of New Jersey and the Coalition of Mental Health Consumer Organizations. 

  • Provided educational awareness and issue leadership efforts to appointed and elected officials, which led to participation in former New Jersey Governor James E. McGreevey’s Hispanic Advisory Council on Policy Development Initiatives Health Subcommittee. As a result of leadership in the area, obtained subsequent appointments to co-chair of the Health Subcommittee and chair of the Mental Health Work Group.  The work group and subcommittee played a key role in the recommendations made to Governor McGreevey on improving the mental health service delivery system for Hispanics in New Jersey.

  • Appointed by former New Jersey Governor James E. McGreevey to the New Jersey State Board of Social Work Examiners. Elected as Vice-Chairman of the aforementioned Board in late 2006.

  • Appointed by former New Jersey Acting Governor Richard J. Codey to the Governor’s Council on Mental Health Stigma.

  • Appointed by New Jersey Governor Jon S. Corzine to the New Jersey Access to Healthcare Issues Study Commission.

  • Upon invitation, serving on the United States Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administrations’ Planning Group and the Organizing Committee for the newly forming National Network for the Elimination of Disparities in Behavioral Health.

  • Upon nomination and election, serving as Co-Chair of the Policy Committee for the newly forming National Latino Behavioral Health Coalition.

  • Upon invitation, serving on New Jersey Department of Human Services, Division of Mental Health Services’ Consumer Output and Outcomes Sub-Committee.

  • Upon invitation, serving on New Jersey’s Department of Human Services Hispanic Advisory Task Force.

  • Upon invitation, serving on Advisory Group for a national public education campaign focusing on youth and depression.

  • Collaborated with the Hispanic Directors Association of New Jersey to host a two-day roundtable in 2005 on Hispanic mental health issues and to develop a policy recommendation report to former Acting Governor Richard J. Codey.  Many of the recommendations have been implemented and are working to improve New Jersey’s mental health service delivery system for Hispanics.

  • Collaborated with the Hispanic Directors of New Jersey to host a full-day follow-up roundtable on Hispanic mental health issues in 2006 to assess the state’s efforts to implement the recommendations from the previous roundtable and to develop new policy recommendations for sharing with New Jersey Governor Jon S. Corzine, and appointed and elected officials.

  • Participated in relevant associations, such as the Association of Hispanic Health Care Executives, the National Latino Behavioral Health Association, and the National Association of Puerto Rican and Hispanic Social Workers, and subscribed to numerous daily, weekly, bi-weekly and monthly publications that include updates on issues, such as minority mental health work, legislation updates, and scholarship programs for Hispanics.  These memberships and subscriptions enhance knowledge of the area and serve as key disseminators of information to local leaders and stakeholders. 

  • Provided nearly 100 trainings in the area of organizational or direct service cultural competency to more than 5,000 human service and mental health organizational leaders and clinicians throughout New Jersey and the nation.

  • Secured federal and private support to establish seven NAMI Family-to-Family Programs in Spanish in New Jersey.  Activities included coordinating the initial introduction and implementation of the program within targeted communities, and working jointly with NAMI NEW JERSEY to ensure the program’s success and adherence to its evidenced-based standards.  The program is geared to family members who have a loved one with a mental illness and aims to reduce the stress and burden often associated with having a relative with a mental illness by helping family members understand mental illnesses and strengthening their communication and coping skills. 

  • Served as an expert on Hispanic mental health issues to radio, television, and print media.  Coverage has included Behavioral Health Care Tomorrow, the American Psychological Association’s Monitor, El Bolentín, a publication of the National Latina/o Psychological Association, Psychiatric Times, NAMI National’s Advocate, Mental Health News, Mental Health Weekly, Salud Menta, New Jersey Network’s Images/Imagenes, Telemundo and Univision.

  • Identified the need and secured the necessary funds to create and disseminate a Directory of Multicultural Resource Agencies in New Jersey that provide mental health services to individuals from racial and ethnic minority groups.

  • Identified the need and secured the necessary funds to implement a bilingual (English and Spanish) tri-state (New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania) television and print public education campaign geared to Hispanics aimed at heightening awareness, acceptance and understanding of mental illness.  This campaign has gained more than $7 million dollars worth of free air time within the tri-state area and has contributed to Hispanics seeking appropriate mental health care services as needed.

  • Planned and hosted a Summit on Improving Mental Health Services for Hispanics.  The summit was designed to share project findings and the model/framework with mental health professionals who have experience working with  Hispanics in a mental health setting prior to the distribution of the model/framework; and obtain feedback, support and consensus from mental health providers who have years of  professional experience working with Hispanics in mental health programs that the model/framework captures key elements of successful mental health service programming for Hispanics. 

  • Established the Hispanic Higher Education Scholarship Fund as a means to address the lack of available qualified, bilingual, and bicultural Hispanics to meet the growing demands for mental health services by Hispanics, especially those with limited English proficiency.  The Hispanic Higher Education Scholarship Fund is specifically targeted to Hispanic individuals with a baccalaureate degree who are bilingual and are interested in pursuing a Master’s degree in Social Work from a New Jersey university.  To date, the project has secured more than $40,000 in contributions for the scholarship fund since its inception in 2002, and it continues to support the educational goals of Hispanics interested in entering the mental health field as Social Workers.  As of 2007, 17 bilingual individuals of Hispanic background have been awarded scholarships toward their graduate education in support of New Jersey’s Hispanic community in need of culturally and linguistically competent mental health care. 

  • Secured publication of a case study report on the Changing Minds, Advancing Mental Health for Hispanics project in a joint publication by the World Health Organization and the World Federation for Mental Health titled, Mental Health Promotion, Case Studies from Countries.  This joint publication was released at the World Conference on Mental Health in Auckard, New Zealand in 2004. 

  • Created a nationwide quarterly bilingual newsletter, Changing Minds, Advancing Mental Health for Hispanics.  The newsletter was created as a venue to share project activities and findings, to increase interest and awareness of mental health issues impacting the Hispanic community, and to educate stakeholders of the issues and needs of Hispanics with regards to accessing and receiving quality mental health services.   The newsletter is sent to nearly 2,000 recipients from across the nation in print format and to nearly 10,000 individuals in electronic format.

  • Secured a sub-contractual relationship over a three-year period with Boston University Psychiatric Rehabilitation on a study focusing on Hispanic mental health.  

  • Serving as a Co-sponsor with Boston University Psychiatric Rehabilitation on an international conference on psychiatric rehabilitation to be held in April 2008 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

  • Serving as a Co-sponsor with the National Organization for People of Color Against Suicide on a national conference on suicide with communities of color to be held February 8-9, 2008, in Los Angeles, CA.

  • Serving as a Co-sponsor with Lutheran Medical Center on a national conference on health disparities to be held in October 2007 in Brooklyn, New York. 

  • Providing support and assistance with the development and implementation of a national public education campaign on Latino men and depression. 

  • Honored with a 2007 American Psychiatric Foundation Award for Advancing Minority Mental Health. Had been honored with a Certificate of Recognition by the American Psychiatric Foundation in 2006 for work with promoting mental health among minority populations. 

  • Honored by the National Association of Puerto Rican/Hispanic Social Workers with the 2004 Leadership Award in Social Work.

  • Honored by the New York Latino Social Work Task Force with a 2006 Leadership Award in Social Work.

  • Developed fact sheets and press releases in both English and Spanish on Hispanic mental health issues and project activities that have resulted in numerous radio, television and print coverage. These activities have allowed for Changing Minds, Advancing Mental Health for Hispanics project staff to share project activities and findings, to increase interest and awareness of mental health issues among Hispanics, to educate stakeholders of the issues and needs of Hispanics with regards to accessing quality mental health services, and to heighten awareness, acceptance and understanding of mental health illness among the Hispanic population. 

  • Developed an educational awareness brochure in English and in Spanish on mental health issues that includes facts on depression, anxiety and schizophrenia.  The brochures were distributed to select communities in New Jersey with a high concentration of Hispanics through community-based organizations, religious organizations, and other community locations. 

  • Participated in community activities, such as health fairs, parent meetings and educational forums in New Jersey to educate community on mental health issues.  These activities have allowed the organization to obtain visibility within Hispanic communities, secure credibility for its work, and build trust and respect from community residents and leaders alike. 

 

Participating in all of the above activities has provided the National Resource Center for Hispanic Mental Health with a better understanding of the issues that Hispanics face with respect to accessing and receiving quality mental health services.  The National Resource Center for Hispanic Mental Health encourages individuals interested in making a difference in this area to work collectively to design strategies that address the complexity of the problems at various levels, such as community, individual, and the regulatory systems levels.  We hope this introduction to the National Resource Center for Hispanic Mental Health has been helpful and welcome you to join us as we strive to eliminate existing disparities in access to and the provision of quality mental health services for Hispanics. 

 

None of the project activities listed above could have been possible without the generous financial or collaborative support of various organizations and institutions.  They are:  Eli Lilly and Company Foundation; Eli Lilly and Company; the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; Johnson & Johnson, Janssen, L.P., the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ Region II Office of Minority Health; Bristol-Myers Squibb Company; Princeton Financial Systems/State Street Foundation; Nordstrom, Inc.; Pfizer, Inc., Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; AstraZeneca; the State of New Jersey Department of Human Services Division of Mental Health Services; the Foundation of the State of New Jersey Department of Community Affairs Center for Hispanic Policy, Research and Development; Goya Foods, Inc.; El Especial Newspaper; Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G); NAMI NEW JERSEY; Verizon New Jersey; HandPack, Inc.; Univision 41; AARP New Jersey;  and our many individual and organizational community stakeholders who have dedicated their time and efforts to support our various project activities.  Thank you!!