In 2016, we learned about our region’s critical shortage of bilingual/bicultural mental health professionals, and the challenges our Latinx neighbors have in accessing therapy. To address this crucial need, we launched the Mental Health Talent Pipeline Project to provide scholarships to bilingual/bicultural students in approved master’s level programs, along with stipends to help them overcome the financial stress of getting professional hours, licenses, and their first jobs in northern Sonoma County.
As our community has faced challenge after challenge in the form of floods, fires and this pandemic, we have repeatedly had to tap into our mental fortitude, our reserves of resilience. It’s one of the reasons we invested in the Wildfire Mental Health Collaborative following the 2017 fires and why mental health continues to be a priority for the Healthcare Foundation.
We'd like you to meet some of our Mental Health Pipeline participants:
Yadira Esparza completed her two academic years in May of 2020 and will in the fall of 2020 start her traineeship at Santa Rosa City Schools in a new program recently created to serve the previously unserved monolingual at-risk youth and their families. Similar to Mark West, SRCS was not on the approved list of sites but we felt that this new program was extremely beneficial to the area and the population it will be serving. SRCS has now been added to our list of approved sites. To find out more about Yadira's journey, watch the video above or read our Spotlight blog post here.
Sonia Aguilar is starting her second year at USF in Fall of 2020 and has previously been forced to abandon her studies due to economic hardships and mentioned that it is due to this scholarship that she is able to afford to continue her studies and Sonia is extremely grateful. She is looking forward to be able to use her bilingual/bicultural experience to assist those who need it the most within the Latinx community, and ultimately would like to work with victims of abuse.
Sergio Aguirre has been working in the Windsor School District through SOS for one year, and Windsor is also where he completed his traineeship. As someone whose parents did not speak much English, he understands the value of having bilingual counselors and is passionate about serving the Latinx student population and their families through academic, social and emotional challenges.
Eylin Blake is completing her traineeship at Mark West School District and will begin her professional career at Mark West in the fall. Since Shelter in Place, Eylin has been doing a lot a virtual play therapy with her patients via Zoom. Mark West School District and its’ students suffered greatly during the 2017 Tubbs Fire and though Mark West was not initially on our list of approved sites, but we felt strongly that Mark West should be included as the need for mental health professionals was great and the Board unanimously approved the addition.
Claudia Caballero Gonzalez completed her two academic years in May of 2020 and will start her traineeship in the fall. Claudia will be joining fellow student Yadira Esparza at the new program through SRCS, working with students and their families who currently are not receiving services due to the lack of Spanish speaking counselors. It was always Claudia’s goal to work in the schools, as that is where she can reach a large number of children and provide education regarding mental health to the students and their parents in their native language.
Daisy Cardenas is starting her second year at USF in Fall of 2020. Daisy has a background of working with local non-profits who serve Latinx and underserved communities. Currently, she works at the HOPE Program at SRJC, where she works with first generation, low income students who are interested in Healthcare careers in hopes to get more bilingual and bicultural professionals into our workforce. Daisy is passionate about reducing the stigma surrounding receiving care for mental health, particularly in the Latinx community and providing counseling to those affected by trauma. Daisy is thankful and proud to be part of the Mental Health Talent Pipeline Project as it is helping her achieve goals that she once dreamed of.
Claudia Hernandez is our sole student from SSU and recently completed her two academic years in May, and in the fall of 2020, she will start her traineeship with SOS and placed in Windsor High School. Claudia has a background in social services and has spent a lot of time working with the homeless population. Claudia is passionate about reducing the stigma around mental health care.
Cesia Jovel is starting her second year at USF in Fall of 2020. Cesia feels that it is our moral responsibility to provide access to bilingual counselors and reduce the stigma of mental health issues, and wants to be an agent of change within the Latinx community.
Eloisa Ruano Gonzalez is starting her second year at USF in Fall of 2020. Eloisa is a former journalist who spent a decade covering social injustices and worked tirelessly to give those on the margins of society a voice. Eloisa is grateful for the opportunity to soon be able to provide counseling to the affected by poverty, trauma or other issues where mental health services can make a big difference.
Luigi Valencia has been working through SOS in the Windsor and Healdsburg School Districts for two years, and will soon be working with the Cloverdale School District as well. He specializes in at-risk youth, and works closely with the local law enforcement in their youth diversion program. In addition to working full time, Luigi is also training to become a police officer and will finish the Police Academy early this summer. His intention is to continue working with SOS and the local law enforcement to support at-risk youth. Since Shelter in Place, Luigi is seeing all his patients from age 8 to 74 via Zoom. You can read more about Luigi at our Spotlight blog post here.