LBHS began in 2011 by community residents with nothing more than a passion to serve their community. LBHS was founded in 2013 and received nonprofit status in 2015. We have grown with the support of strong partners such as Utah Supports Advocates for Recovery Awareness (USARA), The National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) Utah, the Utah Department of Substance Abuse and Mental Health (DSAMH), University Neighborhood Partners (UNP)/The University of Utah, the Salt Lake School District, and others. We currently serve over 600 Latinos annually.
Our work has been recognized through numerous awards including The Pete Suazo Award for Social Justice (2013) and the Outstanding Achievement Award from the YWCA for the mentorship of women (2014).
The fundamental purpose of LBHS is to:
■ Raise awareness about mental illness and substance use disorders in the Latino population and other diverse communities in Utah.
■ Increase the number of Latinos in Utah who are maintaining a state of recovery from mental illness and substance use disorders.
■ Empower Latinos in recovery to give back to their community and impact the mental health system in Utah to be more culturally and linguistically responsive.
LBHS believes the voices, participation, and leadership of and by Latinos in recovery are essential to reaching our goals. With this in mind, LBHS has established a peer-to-peer system of recovery for Latinos. This system includes outreach, mentoring, classes, and support groups. It is organized and executed by family members and consumers in recovery from serious mental illness, including substance use disorders.
Who We Are
All of the people involved with LBHS, from our Board of Directors to our Peer Mentors and Facilitators, are people who have been affected by both mental illness and minority status. Most of us started out at LBHS by attending a class or a support group. As part of our recovery, we engage in outreach, advocacy, mentorship, and education. Often, we become teachers, facilitators, presenters, mentors, therapists, or administrators who support LBHS and other social service agencies in the community. In this way, we build our own capacity and the capacity of the community that we are a part of to fulfill its own needs.
One of Utah’s most vulnerable and underserved populations in Utah is the Latino population. This represents more than 500,000 people, or more than 14.8% of our community in Utah. The Latino population in some neighborhoods in Salt Lake, Utah, Summit and Weber Counties are estimated between 11% and 19%.
Not only is the Latino population in Utah large, as a historically and currently marginalized population, it bares more risk factors for mental and physical health than the general population. According to the Census in 2021, 11.7% of the Hispanics living in Utah were below the poverty line compared to the overall population of Utah at 8.6%. In 2019, 20% of Hispanic Americans lack health insurance. This share of uninsured among undocumented Hispanics has declined over the last decade. Before the Affordable Care Act, 33% of Hispanics did not have health insurance. And still, Hispanics remain more likely to be uninsured than other racial and ethnic groups.
In addition to other environmental challenges, poverty and lack of access to health care are two risk factors that contribute to higher rates of mental and emotional conditions and substance use disorders. Aggravating risk factors include elevated levels of stigma that prevent help-seeking; elevated alcohol and substance use; a sense of isolation or alienation from the dominant culture; and history of trauma (as related to refugee status or other difficult circumstances of immigration). Barriers to prevention in this population are related to the common difficulties of immigrant status; difficulties related to English as a second language; difficulties with child care; difficulties obtaining work, driver’s license and related transportation, and housing.
Latino culture also has protective factors against suicide and mental illness as well as resources related to prevention. Protective factors and resources in this population include the strength of family ties and community support, religious beliefs that support self-preservation, and strong cultural values of pride that lead to resiliency.
The Office of Minority Mental Health reports that 12.2% of adults experienced psychological distress. In 2009, The Utah Department of Health and Center for Multicultural Health report found that major depression in Hispanics is almost twice that of all Utahns (8.2% versus 4.2%). According to the Center for Disease Control (2009), Latino youths attempt suicide at rates higher (8.2%) than their white non Hispanic peers (6.1%) and suicide attempts for Hispanic girls were 50% higher than for White girls in the same age group, in 2015.
With competent responsiveness to cultural, socio-economic, and linguistics characteristics, LBHS exists to change these statistics, and the lives of the people they represent. The work of LBHS embodies a theory of change rooted in capacity building: teach a man to fish. LBHS is building the capacity of each individual that chooses to get more involved; providing them with training, new skills, opportunities to teach, or to engage in advocacy or fundraising activities. In this way, our Resident Partner-run programs are sustainable and build capacity into families and communities. By using the strengths inherent within it, together we lift the Latino community up, reduce the risk factors of mental illness and substance use disorders, and directly address the needs of those who need help the most.