Padilla, Menendez, Napolitano Introduce Mental Health for Latinos Act
WASHINGTON, D.C. — As the nation observes Minority Mental Health Awareness month, U.S. Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), and Representative Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.-31) today introduced the Mental Health for Latinos Act, legislation to improve mental health outcomes among Latino and Hispanic communities.
Barriers to mental health care within Latino communities, which existed long before COVID, are causing too many to suffer in silence. Presently, only 36.1% of Latino adults aged 18 or older with a mental illness received services in 2021, compared to the U.S. average of 47.2%. Between 2010 and 2020, the suicide rate among male Latino adults (ages 20 to 64) increased by 35.7%, and the female rate increased by 40.6%. Even those who are able to access services rarely receive the effective care they need.
Informed and culturally competent resources, education materials, and outreach programs are vital to addressing the mental health crisis. This legislation recognizes the unique mental health challenges of the Latino community, aiming to reduce cultural stigma and rectify the health care disparities that prevent people from receiving life-saving mental health services. As our nation confronts an unfolding mental health crisis exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, this critical legislation reinforces the message that there is zero shame in asking for help.
“We must eliminate barriers to mental health care, because no one should suffer in silence,” said Senator Padilla. “By accounting for the cultural and language needs of the Latino community, the Mental Health for Latinos Act will improve mental health outcomes by strategically reducing stigma and encouraging people to reach out for help. As we craft legislation that addresses mental health challenges, it’s critical that we acknowledge the distinct needs of our diverse communities to develop a comprehensive, equitable, and effective response to the growing mental health crisis.”
“Communities of color, including Latinos, often lack access to culturally appropriate mental health care, which can negatively affect their health outcomes,” said Senator Menendez. “One of the best ways to combat this inequity is by improving outreach and educating communities about the benefits of behavioral and mental health care, and that’s why I’m co-leading this legislation with Senator Padilla and Congresswoman Napolitano. We want to ensure that Latinos have all the necessary tools, resources, and information when accessing behavioral and mental health services.”
“Despite the critical strides we have made, machismo, other cultural tendencies, and long-standing disparities within our healthcare system are still preventing members of our Latino community from receiving life-saving mental health services. These barriers to care, which existed long before COVID, are causing too many to suffer in silence, and this must change,” said Representative Napolitano. “The Mental Health for Latinos Act boosts our continued efforts to reduce stigma and promote mental wellness, while meeting the diverse needs of Hispanic and Latino populations across the country. As our nation confronts a mental health crisis only worsened by the pandemic, I am very grateful to Senators Padilla and Menendez for joining me in introducing this legislation, to raise awareness, reduce stigma, and help save lives.”
Specifically, the bill would direct the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a strategy to:
- Provide information on evidence-based practices, interventions, and treatments that are culturally and linguistically appropriate
- Increase awareness of symptoms of mental illnesses common among such populations, considering differences within subgroups, such as gender, gender identity, age, sexual orientation, race, or ethnicity
- Ensure full participation of both consumers and community members in the development and implementation of materials
- Meet the diverse cultural and language needs of the various Latino and Hispanic populations and address the impact of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic on the mental and behavioral health of Latino and Hispanic populations
Senator Padilla and his colleagues have long championed investing in mental health resources and ending the stigma that surrounds mental health. Padilla recently announced that he is preparing to launch the first-ever Senate Mental Health Caucus. He recently introduced the Supporting Mental Health for Military Children Act of 2023 to ensure that children of military families, who are at a high risk for mental and behavioral health problems, have access to mental health screenings and check-ups at Department of Defense Education Activity schools. Padilla also previously introduced the Comprehensive Mental Health in Schools Pilot Program Act, legislation to fund pilot programs in primary and secondary schools to address mental and behavioral health issues and implement intervention programs for students.
A one-pager of the bill is available here.
Full text of the bill is available here.