[Hpn] "The government is not always seen as a friend."

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Sat, 27 Jan 2001 20:00:08 -0700


The Toledo BLADE

Coalition strives to end stigma of mental health care

Two groups are hoping that efforts to educate the local Hispanic community
about mental illness will break down some of the misconceptions and the
stigma surrounding the disease.

The Alliance for Mental Illness is combining with Adelante, Inc., a
substance-abuse organization geared toward Latinos, to use a $62,000 grant
provided by the Lucas County Mental Health Board to work with area
Hispanics. "This is an excellent collaboration and something that has been
needed," said Jackie Martin, executive director of the board. "We are aware
that some in the Hispanic community may not be as aware of the mental health
services as in other communities.

"They should not be stigmatized by the illness and know that recovery is
possible. The [money] comes from our minority outreach program, so it was a
logical next step for us."

The program, called "Confiansa," which means confidence in Spanish, is
designed to help Latinos build trust in the mental health system and to make
them feel more comfortable in approaching mental health workers about
problems and concerns, said Louis Escobar, executive director of Adelante
and a Toledo city councilman.

"We want to be clear that this is not treatment, but outreach and support,"
Mr. Escobar said. "We will take referrals and identify Latinos who could
benefit from these services. We want to do education as well. We want to
make the [Hispanic] community available to the services provided."

Mr. Escobar said using the services of the alliance would allow more Latinos
to use the advocacy group in guiding them through the mental health system.

"[Hispanics] tend to be very suspicious of social service agencies because
they equate it to the government," Mr. Escobar said.

"The government is not always seen as a friend."

"People with mental illness tend to be disenfranchised in general," said
Marci Dvorak, executive director of the alliance. "We want to make it less
frightening for them and their family members to take their concerns to the

She said the mental health system is not accustomed to dealing with the
Hispanic culture, and the alliance plans to help break those barriers within
the mental health community.

She said bilingual services and material would be provided. Lisa
Canales-Flores, the Hispanic minority coordinator for the alliance, will go
from part time to full time for the program and Adelante has hired Alma
Estrada-Beshalski to work with the program.

"I think these things will help tremendously in helping us access the
community," Ms. Dvorak said.

"There will be some in the Hispanic community who won't need bilingual
services, but we know many who feel more comfortable with it."

2001 The Blade


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