Health Disparities for Latino Families and Communities
• September 2021 •
From Juan Navarro, Executive Director
Los Angeles Centers for Alcohol and Drug Abuse
Health Disparities for Latino Families and Communities
California has the largest Latino population in America and California’s largest Latino community is right here in Los Angeles County. To be precise, the county’s SPA 7 (Service Planning Area) neighborhoods have the largest Latino community in America. This southeast county area includes the cities of East L.A., Pico Rivera, Montebello, Downey, Hawaiian Gardens, and other neighborhoods with as many as 98.4% Latino residents. Because SPA 7 is also L.A. CADA’s headquarters, we are concerned about the significant health disparities faced by this once minority group here.
It’s important to note that Latinos (L.A. CADA clients’ preferred name) have the highest uninsured rates of any racial group in the United States. In 2019, the Census Bureau reported that only 50% of Latinos had private insurance coverage, as compared to 74.7% for non-Hispanic whites. In addition, 18.5% of L.A. County’s Latino families live in poverty as compared to 9.7% of whites. Even the pandemic presents stark disparities for our Latino residents. A 2021 USC study of a large and diverse group of Medi-Cal enrollees found that Latino patients had much higher odds of a positive COVID-19 test, hospitalization, and death than white patients. And while their rates of behavioral health disorders may not significantly differ from the general population, Latinos have substantially lower access to mental health and substance use treatment – especially evidence-based treatment that works, including culturally-responsive care.
To improve equity, L.A. CADA is devoted to the delivery of Latino-responsive prevention and treatment services. More than just Spanish language-based care, culturally responsive behavioral healthcare for Latino patients means that treatment addresses the issues of stigma and cultural mores, including immigration trauma, stereotypes, rigid gender roles, and the use of folk-healers. It means that the patient’s family is informed, educated about, and included in treatment services. Culturally responsive services also tackle the hard issues of homophobia, religion, family violence, mistrust of public systems, and confidentiality, while providing awareness education for service access in a dignified and sensitive way. Ultimately, successful behavioral health services work to engender trust between the provider, the patient, and family members.
At L.A. CADA, we’ve found that the use of community and peer mentors in behavioral healthcare is one of the most important factors in long-term recovery. If you are a Latino in recovery, please consider linking up with a healthcare organization to lend important mentorship volunteer services.
Have you heard Latino mentor Danny Trejo’s Recovery Story?
“I’m Rico J. and treatment helped me be a better man. Where I live, men have to be strong, macho, you know? I wanted to be like my dad because he’s that guy. I played football in school and got into trucking through City College after I graduated, it’s well-paying work for a man. Until I got a DUI on the job and I was fired. Then I drank to feel better. I was always up for a fight, especially to protect a woman, and I was arrested several times. My drinking got 100% out of control. After a car accident, my family asked me to go to rehab. I thought that was for weaklings, but I went because my girlfriend was so scared. In the program, there were many good counselors, male role models for me. We talked a lot about the way we were raised, being macho, and using drinking as an excuse. I learned about what being a man really is – taking care of yourself, your family, and being trustworthy. To be honest, it took a while for it to sink in, but today I’m clean, sober, and I’d like to say, finally trustworthy for my family”.
Are you recovering? Do you know someone in recovery? Or maybe you just want to understand more about behavioral health disorders? We invite you to join L.A. CADA in celebrating National Recovery Month. Each September, the event works to educate Americans about substance use treatment and mental health services that can help people with behavioral health disorders to live healthy and rewarding lives. Now in its 32nd year, Recovery Month celebrates the gains made by those living in recovery.
Check out website for : ways to participate
- September 15th through October 15: National Hispanic Heritage Month
SPOTLIGHT – THE EVIDENCE IS IN:
TREATMENT BARRIERS FOR LATINOS
Despite a need for treatment, Latinos have asked for help for a substance use problem at very low rates. The literature notes that Latinos underutilize specialty substance abuse treatment services (formal programs such as rehabilitation and in/out patient services): only 3-7% of Latinos with substance abuse disorder (SUD) report ever using specialty substance abuse treatment. In fact, whites with an SUD are more than twice as likely to have obtained help from a specialty substance abuse treatment program than Latinos. Researchers have widely accepted, that Latinos face greater barriers to treatment than whites. These barriers include:
- logistical concerns (finding services, paying, issues with transportation and childcare)
- factors that influence help-seeking (culture, migration experiences, mistrust)
- attitudinal and subjective norm barriers (cultural factors; belief that one is functional even when drinking; wish to continue drinking; belief in treatment as ineffective; stigma and fear of looking weak; lack of social/family support)
- lack of providers that Latinos perceive as culturally-responsive or understanding
Protecting the health of Latinos in L.A. County is imperative to the public health given the group’s growing majority in our population. The development of universal SUD treatment that addresses Latino treatment barriers is critical.
Learn more about: Latino SUD Treatment Needs