Axios: Sen. Padilla bill aims to tackle Latino mental health

By Russell Contreras

U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) on Tuesday introduced a bill seeking to lift barriers to mental health care among Latinos.

Why it matters: The pandemic exacerbated mental health needs in the U.S., especially among Latinos, whose rates of depression, anxiety and suicide have grown since 2020.

There’s also a shortage of providers who are Latino or who can speak Spanish or Indigenous languages from Latin America.

Details: Padilla’s bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), would require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to provide information on culturally and linguistically appropriate treatments in its materials. U.S. Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.) is introducing the House version of the bill.

It would also direct the agency to increase awareness of symptoms of mental illnesses common among Latinos and address the impact of COVID on the mental and behavioral health of Hispanics.

Zoom out: Only 36.1% of Latinos ages 18 or older with a mental illness received services in 2021, compared to the U.S. average of 47.2%, according to Padilla’s office.

Overall, the suicide rate for Hispanics increased by 6.8% from 2018 to 2021, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What they’re saying: “We must eliminate barriers to mental health care, because no one should suffer in silence,” Padilla said in a statement.

“The Mental Health for Latinos Act will improve mental health outcomes by strategically reducing stigma and encouraging people to reach out for help.”

Of note: Padilla recently announced that he is preparing to launch the first-ever Senate Mental Health Caucus. 

He also sponsored the bill to help children of military families get access to mental health screenings and check-ups at Department of Defense Education Activity schools.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, call or text 988 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Ayuda disponible en español.

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