NJAMHAA Promotes Mental Health Awareness for National Hispanic Heritage Month

October 10, 2017

MERCERVILLE, NJ - Hispanic Americans have increasingly become the center of national focus in the ongoing immigration policy debate. According to the National Latino Behavioral Health Association (NLBHA) and the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the ethnic and racial rhetoric that permeated last year's national elections, as well as uncertain future prospects for undocumented people, have magnified the anxiety young Hispanics feel. While young Hispanics have the highest rates of depression of any ethnic group, they continue to encounter multiple barriers, including cultural and linguistic differences, in accessing healthcare services.

Hispanic Americans are the largest ethnic minority group in the United States, with one in six people identifying as Hispanic. In New Jersey, Hispanics make significant contributions to comprising the state's diverse communities: nearly one in five people living in the state are Hispanic, and more than one out of four babies born in the state in 2014 are of Hispanic origin, according to the Pew Research Center. New Jersey has the seventh-highest Hispanic population of all the states. However, nearly a quarter of Hispanics in New Jersey have no health insurance.

The New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies, Inc. (NJAMHAA) is a trade association representing nearly 160 New Jersey community-based providers of behavioral healthcare services, which can be found in every county statewide and serve individuals of all backgrounds.

"Our member providers are located in communities all over the state, and in many areas with high concentrations of Hispanic residents. The clinicians who serve these populations themselves have diverse backgrounds, and many are trained in multicultural competency and providing services in English and Spanish. Our members are committed to helping all people who are struggling with mental illnesses or substance use disorders connect to services that will enable recovery in the way that works for them," said Debra L. Wentz, Ph.D., President and CEO of NJAMHAA.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Office of Minority Health (OMH) recognizes September 15 - October 15 as National Hispanic Heritage Month to draw attention to the need to improve health equity, as well as celebrate the histories, cultures, and contributions of Americans who, along with their ancestors, came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. OMH provides informational resources in English and Spanish to help individuals navigate their health insurance and make the most of their coverage.

NJAMHAA works to advance behavioral health awareness for the Hispanic population, as well as to bridge gaps in the delivery of essential services. Multicultural issues are always a salient subject of critical discussion at NJAMHAA's meetings and conferences; the 2017 Fall Behavioral Healthcare Meeting, Shaping Our Future, taking place on October 24 at the Pines Manor in Edison, will feature a workshop on working with the Hispanic population. Additionally, NJAMHAA's charitable subsidiary, the New Jersey Mental Health Institute (NJMHI), has conducted extensive research and reported on improving mental health outcomes for the Hispanic population through its nationally and internationally recognized project Changing Minds, Advancing Mental Health for Hispanics.

Through the work of NJAMHAA-affiliated groups and agencies, Hispanic people living in New Jersey have increased access to life-saving behavioral healthcare services that enable their families and communities to thrive. For National Hispanic Heritage Month, NJAMHAA encourages advocates to reach out to Hispanic communities, to be open to conversations about mental health from varying cultural perspectives, and to encourage the breakdown of financial, social, and cultural barriers that prevent too many Hispanic Americans from accessing behavioral healthcare services and living fulfilled lives.

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