Model Mental Health Program

Psychiatric TimesPsychiatric Times Vol 24 No 3
Volume 24
Issue 3

A major participant in outreach efforts to Latino populations is the New Jersey Mental Health Institute, Inc (NJMHI), which recently launched the National Resource Center for Hispanic Mental Health.

A major participant in outreach efforts to Latino populations is the New Jersey Mental Health Institute, Inc (NJMHI), which recently launched the National Resource Center for Hispanic Mental Health.

Henry Acosta, MA, MSW, executive director of the center and deputy director of the NJMHI, said that the resource center was an outgrowth of the NJMHI's "award-winning and internationally recognized 'Changing Minds, Advancing Mental Health for Hispanics'" project, created in 2001.

The primary goal of "Changing Minds, Advancing Mental Health for Hispanics" was to understand the belief systems, attitudes, and barriers facing the at-risk Hispanic population in need of mental health services and to implement effective strategies to address identified barriers.

To that end, the project team produced a comprehensive literature review and analysis of Hispanic mental health issues.1 Project team members met with 23 mental health agency administrators and Hispanic community-based organization administrators throughout New Jersey and 122 direct service mental health providers. They obtained a clearer understanding of the barriers that agencies and clinicians experience in providing mental health services to Hispanics, and of the strategies they employ to address these barriers. In addition, the team conducted focus groups with mental health consumers and nonconsumers who were of Cuban, Mexican, Dominican, or Puerto Rican descent. Issues discussed included how Latinos define mental health and mental illness; what mental health problems they recognize; what barriers they face to accessing mental health services; and what kinds of programs would help improve their knowledge of and access to mental health services.

Model mental health report
The result of this research is the Model Mental Health for Hispanics Report,2 which includes best practices for mental health agencies and clinicians to use in order to attract and retain Hispanics in mental health services that reflect their needs and cultural preferences.

"The model report was incredibly well received," Acosta said, "we've gotten e-mails and letters from people all over the country saying we are incorporating your recommendations in terms of program environment, cultural competence, outreach, and public education."

In Oregon, he said, a 6-county collaborative secured $1 million to incorporate the model so it can improve outreach and treatment for Hispanics.

The Changing Minds project team also is involved in training and conference presentations, and they worked with the National Alliance on Mental Illness to introduce the grassroots organization's Family-to-Family program in Spanish in 9 communities in New Jersey.

"We want to continue providing information and services to communities throughout the country, so establishing the resource center is a natural progression," Acosta said.

Supported by inaugural funding from the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation, the resource center's goals include developing culturally competent resources and tools, fostering best practice programs, delivering high-quality training on culturally competent mental health service delivery, and institutionalizing systems for access and eliminating disparities.

A Web site for the resource center,, has been developed and is expected to be fully operational in a few weeks.


References1. Guarnaccia PJ, Martinez I, Acosta H. Mental health in the Hispanic immigrant community: an overview. In: González MJ, González-Ramos G, eds. Mental Health Care for New Hispanic Immigrants: Innovative Approaches in Contemporary Clinical Practice. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Social Work Practice Press; 2005.
2. Acosta H, Guarnaccia PJ, Martinez I. Model Mental Health Program for Hispanics-An Overview of the New Jersey Mental Health Institute Inc.'s Changing Minds, Advancing Mental Health for Hispanics Project and Recommended Steps to Improve Access to and Quality of Mental Health Services for Hispanics. Available at: Accessed January 31, 2006.

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