“The two biggest barriers for clients are language and
transportation,” said Ms. Avina.
from NAMI of Greater Toledo, lamented that “not much has
changed” with medical interpreting in Ohio, stating that there
is not one bilingual psychiatrist in the entire state to help
with the prevalence of Latino mental illness, which often goes
either ignored, undiagnosed, or untreated in many families.
“The stigma is very real. It’s beyond words,” she said,
explaining that many Latino families don’t know the symptoms or
don’t want to admit a loved one has a mental disorder of some
Ms. Martínez-Folger also stated that Latino youth have the
highest suicide rate of any ethnic group in the U.S.
Other health agencies also reported similar efforts to help
Spanish-speaking families navigate the complex requirements of
healthcare safety net programs for low-income households, such
as the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, and CareNet.
Many are forced to provide interpreting services at every step
of the process, because of the lack of bilingual staff at
healthcare and health insurance-related agencies.
“Health disparities, in a large sense, are a byproduct of social
determinants in health,” said Dennis Hicks, minority
health coordinator for the Toledo-Lucas Co. Health Dept.
“They don’t spring up on their own. They’re the result of
education disparities, income disparities, housing disparities,
and all of those things combined.”
Increased drug and alcohol use, particularly among Latino youth,
continues to be a concern. Heather Cruz, deputy director
of community programs at Pathstone, spoke of a recent
prevention program the agency held for Latino teens.
“It’s very obvious that they’re seeing it at the school level
and among their peers,” she said. “We were surprised at their
level of knowledge, the lingo, what was available, and the
questions they were asking gave the impression that they were
exposed to it. Whether that was at the school or family level is
what’s in question, because we’ve definitely seen an increase in
drug abuse among our adult clients and it’s becoming more of an
Ms. Cruz stated one client died from an overdose of pain pills
and heroin. Three others had to enter treatment programs for
abuse of prescription pain medication.
retired from the Ohio Dept. of Job and Family Services, sounded
a warning that pain pill addiction in Ohio is leading to heroin
“It starts with pain pills—and when that runs out, they turn to
heroin because it’s so much cheaper,” he said.
But getting treatment for drug addiction also remains a stigma
within Latino families.
“It comes down to that type of mentality where it’s considered a
weakness instead of recognizing there’s a need,” said Ms. Cruz.
She also stated agencies must adapt their teaching methods about
drug abuse to counteract the information readily available to
teens via smartphones and other devices.
“I don’t think scare tactics work anymore,” said Ms. Cruz.
Some of the agencies lamented that doing a better job takes
money. Lucio, who’s now under contract with OCHLA to help Latino
groups seek funding, admonished the group, telling them that
“there is a great deal of money out there” in Ohio. But he
stated other organizations are in Columbus actively asking for
“We’re not at the table and that’s one of my biggest
frustrations,” he said. “You need to knock on those doors.”
Lucio also encouraged the Latino organizations to get more
active in the political process, explaining there are an
estimated 180,000 Latinos eligible to vote in Ohio. He pointed
out Gov. John Kasich won that race in 2010 by just 77,000 votes.
“Guess what folks? We can swing an election,” he said. “That’s
why your voice and your participation are important.”
He also encouraged the Latino groups to partner with local
churches to advocate for faith-based funding from the state.
“How many Latinos are applying for that? Zero. We’re not
even at the table,” he said. “That money is there. Everybody
else is using it, but Latinos are not using it.”
The others who attended the meeting also included: Georgina
Alvarez of OCHLA, Linda Parra of Nuestra Gente
Community Projects, Marriah Kornowa of Molina Healthcare,
Meyling Ruiz of Adelante, Dora Cortes and
Heather Cruz of Pathstone, and Veronica Amézquita of
The Ohio Latino Health Summit started in 2012 as a partnership
between OCHLA and LULAC Ohio to address regional health
disparities, allow Latino health professionals to network and
interact, as well as provide workshops on best practices to
address common health-related problems statewide. Last year, the
summit drew 200 people to attend. The theme of this year’s
summit is “Building and Preserving Our Health.”