A Northern California mental health clinic for Spanish speaking members is expanding at Kaiser Permanente. Pictured, mental health therapist Alejandra Ledezma outside her Walnut Creek office.
Inspired by the success of a Richmond mental health program for Spanish speaking members, Kaiser Permanente clinicians are now replicating the practices of La Clínica (The Clinic) in other Northern California facilities.
Jessica Dominguez, LMFT, was instrumental in starting La Clínica as a pilot in 2015 to better reach Hispanic members in their own language with sensitivity to customs and culture at the Kaiser Permanente Richmond Medical Center.
“About a year ago I contacted Jessica, and she gave me a lot of brilliant ideas,” said Kaiser Permanente Walnut Creek mental health therapist Alejandra Ledezma, LCSW. “Since then we’ve been able to start 2 Spanish speaking groups in our clinic for adults.”
One adult group addresses anxiety and the second adult group is for parents who could be experiencing difficulties of acculturation, depression, stress, child abuse, domestic violence, and trauma, Ledezma said.
Kaiser Permanente has about 918,000 Hispanic members in Northern California. The number of Spanish speaking members coming to the Walnut Creek clinic where Ledezma works is projected to increase about 65% from 2015 to the end of this year, she said.
Ledezma said she hopes to replicate the Richmond model with a full staff of Spanish speakers and weekly meetings for therapists to share issues and insights arising from their practices.
Collaboration Is Key
Jose Trejo, LCSW, a therapist at Kaiser Permanente South San Francisco, said he too plans to replicate La Clínica. With 8 therapists who speak Spanish in his clinic, the time is right to put the model in place.
“We heard about the Richmond program and asked for guidance,” Trejo said. “They got back to us within the day. Jessica provided me a document with the entire layout of the program. That gave us direction to put the plan together.”
Dominguez, Ledezma, and Trejo all agree that one key to reaching Spanish speakers in the mental health space is creating a great word-of-mouth experience.
Trejo said his department recently organized a nighttime social hour for Spanish speaking patients, called La Noche Social, to meet therapists and to “gather information on the needs of the community.”
Another aspect in creating a successful program is understanding the barriers to asking for care, which can be high in the Hispanic community, he said.
Meeting the Demand
“To learn more about our patients, we created a survey on what they want and what they feel is missing,” Trejo said.
With inspiration from Dominguez, Trejo said his department has added a Spanish speaking group that addresses depression, and he hopes to add more groups, based on demand.
“Ideally we could start spreading La Clínica to all different Kaiser Permanente areas,” Trejo said. “One of the things we’ve always known is there is stigma attached to getting mental health treatment in the Latino community. How you overcome that is by providing the services.”