Doctoral Students to Give Mental Healthcare to Spanish Speakers


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Mental health isn’t talked about enough in the Latino community. Even if they want to talk, their doctors are rarely equipped to overcome language and cultural barriers to answer questions.

That’s starting to change in Missouri.

A new residency program is recruiting doctors-in-training to provide Spanish-language mental healthcare services to Latinos in clinics across the state.

The program is a collaboration between Ponce Health Sciences University in Puerto Rico, which operates a satellite campus in Missouri, and Compass Health Network, a nonprofit with healthcare clinics serving rural residents across Missouri, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

“Very few Missouri clinics have therapeutic staff who speak Spanish,” according to the news report. “Compass Health Network clinics provide in-house translators for their Spanish-speaking patients, but many clinics in Missouri turn to over-the-phone translation services or even Google Translate.”

The Need for the Residency Program

The U.S. has a massive shortage of mental healthcare professionals.

The nation needs to add 10,000 providers to each of seven separate mental healthcare professions by 2025 to meet the expected growth in demand, according to one report.

Missouri has a 69% share of mental healthcare professionals in place.

In six different counties In Missouri, Spanish is the primary language in more than 10% of households. Most of these are rural and historically difficult to reach with behavioral health services.

Without healthcare providers who can reach them, mental health issues will persist.

How the Residency Program Will Help

The new residency program places Spanish-fluent doctoral students in one of the largest clinic networks in the state, especially rural clinics with the highest concentration of Spanish-speaking residents.

The program is being tested with three doctoral students.

Daymarie Rivera-Morales, Luis Lopez-Rodríguez, and Nicole Ryan-Nolla moved 2,000 miles from Puerto Rico to Missouri to join the program.

They hope to expand to 25 residents next year.

“People will start coming and getting the help they need in a way that will actually work for them,” Daymarie said.

Th residency program is helping build the field of diverse mental healthcare. Other ways to address Latino mental healthcare include telemental aspects, as well as integrating behavioral health services within primary care settings.

Find more ways to improve mental health here on Salud America!

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By The Numbers By The Numbers



of Latinos remain without health insurance coverage

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