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) across California.
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.
“When I started La Clinica for Walnut Creek members about 3 years ago, I contacted Jessica, and she gave me a lot of brilliant ideas,” said Kaiser Permanente Walnut Creek mental health therapist Alejandra Ledezma, LCSW, who works with children and their families. “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. The number of Spanish speaking mental health staff members in the Kaiser Permanente Walnut Creek area has grown from 4 in 2015 to 13 today, with 7 of those who are therapists.
Ledezma said the La Clinica model emphasizes having Spanish speaking support staff who can easily get new patients appointments with Spanish speaking therapists so there is no delay in getting them care.
“We recognized that we needed to bridge the gap from the Spanish speaking patient to the the whole staff, not just the therapists,” said Ledezma.
Kaiser Permanente currently has more than 1 million Hispanic members in Northern California, a number that has grown by about 100,000 just since 2019. The number of Spanish speaking members coming to the Walnut Creek clinic where Ledezma works has grown as well.
Ledezma said the Richmond model has been copied across Kaiser Permanente in California and 48 therapists now meet quarterly 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 also helped replicate La Clínica in that area which now has 10 therapists who speak Spanish in his clinic.
“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.
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.
“One of the things we’ve always known is there is stigma attached to getting mental health treatment in the Latino community,” said Trejo. “How you overcome that is by providing the services.”