The New Jersey Mental Health Institute’s (NJMHI’s) inaugural initiative was the nationally and internationally recognized Changing Minds, Advancing Mental Health for Hispanics project, which enhanced resources for New Jersey’s Hispanic communities and providers who serve them.
This project was launched in October 2001 to address the nationwide lack of access to and the quality of mental health services for Hispanics. It was created in response to a series of national reports that highlighted the disparities that exist for Hispanics with respect to accessing and receiving quality mental health services. Project activities included:
- NJMHI’s Hispanic Higher Education Scholarship Fund. The scholarship fund was created to address the lack of available bilingual and bicultural Hispanics to meet the mental health needs of the Hispanic community. The scholarship fund is specifically targeted to undergraduate college students of Hispanic background who are bilingual and interested in pursuing a master’s degree in Social Work from a New Jersey university.
- The implementation of National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) New Jersey’s Family-to-Family educational program in Spanish at 10 locations within nine cities that span six different counties in New Jersey. This project is a collaborative effort between the NJMHI’s Changing Minds, Advancing Mental Health for Hispanics project, NAMI New Jersey, and nine community stakeholders groups that were created and brought together by NJMHI.
- Ongoing bilingual public education campaign targeted to Hispanics. The campaign’s goal is to heighten awareness, understanding and acceptance of mental illness and of persons with a mental illness among the Hispanic population.
- Production of videos and other training materials to educate mental health organizational providers and individual clinicians nationwide on best practices in providing mental health services to Hispanics. Most notable was the Model Hispanic Mental Health
As a result of this project, NJMHI expanded its focus to ensure availability of, access to and delivery of culturally competent services to a variety of other minority populations. NJMHI also did business as and launched the National Resource Center for Hispanic Mental Health in 2006 to address the nationwide lack of availability, access to, and provision of quality mental health services for Hispanics, and to heighten awareness, acceptance and understanding of mental illness throughout the Hispanic population. The National Center was operated under the auspices of the Institute with the guidance of a National Board of Advisors, and the leadership of the Institute’s Board of Trustees.
The National Center was dedicated to promoting quality mental health services through policy development initiatives, training, technical assistance, research, data collection, best practice development and anti-stigma and anti-discrimination campaigns. The National Center developed an online repository of resources for providers, including research, guidelines and other materials focused on effectively serving Hispanics. The website (www.nrchmh.org) also features resources for consumers, family members and media. It hosted several national Latino mental health conferences, created opportunities for federal projects for NJMHI, and attained national recognition for both NJMHI and The National Center projects and leadership.
Through the fostering of partnerships with educational institutions, private industry, government agencies, advocacy organizations and family support groups, the National Center’s influence extended its reach to providers across the nation and even occasionally, the globe with presentations at international venues in Argentina, Egypt and Greece. Training sessions focused on sharing best practices in attracting, engaging, retaining and serving Hispanics in a culturally and linguistically appropriate and competent manner.