Evaluating Latinx Mental Health in the Community

Jennifer Newberry, MD, JD, leads a bilingual team in a multi-year collaboration with community partners to assess and address mental health usage patterns in the East San José Latinx community.

Why is Latinx mental health a priority for emergency medicine? Newberry, associate professor of emergency medicine, cites three important reasons.

“First, we see the consequences of untreated mental health issues in the ED all the time,” says Newberry. “But we need to address mental health concerns before they reach a crisis that requires a trip to the ED.”

“Second,” she continues, “if Precision Emergency Medicine is the use of data to authentically care for patients, patients are the best ones to provide context for that data.”

“Third, our profession is built on the mantra of anyone, anywhere, anytime. Healthcare access is not just about getting patients to the ED. It is about bringing care to patients in the community.”

In 2022, Newberry was awarded a five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to evaluate mental health usage in the Latinx community of East San José, located a short distance from Stanford University. She heads a team of bilingual research assistants who identify as Latinx. The team collaborates with Stanford’s Quantitative Sciences Unit; community-engaged researchers from the departments of epidemiology and psychology; Drexel University’s social network analysis experts; and community partners and promotoras from San José.

Promotoras are lay Hispanic/Latino community members with specialized training in health education. Promotoras have frequent contact and established trust with community members and can amplify healthcare efforts at critical junctures.

In the first phase of the project, 19 promotoras and research assistants went door to door to collect data from over 1,000 households. 70% of those surveyed were foreign-born, a group with a traditionally low response rate to phone surveys. Most participants opted to take the survey in Spanish.

Questions helped researchers identify and map patterns of behavior in accessing community mental health services, as well as barriers to service. Barriers included transportation issues, costs, lack of providers from similar cultural backgrounds, the concern of being perceived as weak, and even the fear that children could be taken away if parents sought mental health services. In conversations with the community, many voiced concerns about mental health services for their adolescent children and support for substance abuse issues.

In partnership with Drexel University, the team is conducting a mixed-methods social network analysis, including interviews with up to sixty respondents. The team is also asset-mapping 100+ mental health providers, overlaying details such as proximity to transportation, interpreter services, insurance status, etc.

The data, feedback, and asset mapping will be used to create models that illustrate barriers and opportunities. The data will then be used to inform a promotora-centered community intervention to increase Latinx usage of mental health services in East San José.


Updated Spring 2024