Todos Somos, Somos Uno: We Are All, We Are One!

    Read Mayor Bowser’s Statement on National Hispanic Heritage Month

    The District of Columbia observes Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 through October 15 as a time to celebrate our diverse Hispanic and Latino communities, which represent 11.7% of the District’s population. While celebrating the many ways Hispanic/Latino residents strengthen our city, it’s also important to recognize the obstacles they encounter, including barriers to accessing quality physical and mental health care.

    English- and Spanish-speaking District residents identified racial/ethnic, linguistic, and cultural barriers; social stigma associated with behavioral health; and limited access to bilingual and culturally competent providers as challenges to obtaining care during community forums and interviews for the District’s 2018 DC Primary Care Needs Assessment and 2017 DC Health Systems Plan. They also ranked language/culture among the top five social determinants of health issues posing barriers to access and engagement in care, along with housing, poverty, transportation, and food access.

    According to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System’s (BRFSS) 2020 survey, Hispanic residents in the District are more likely to rate their health fair or poor (10%) than White residents (3.5%), and to report their mental health as not good for 14 or more of the past 30 days (16.1% versus 12.2%, respectively). Hispanic residents (12.9%) also appear more likely than White (6.1%), Black (10.1%), and Other (9.5%) residents to say they needed to see a doctor in the past 12 months but could not because of cost.

    Integrated Care DC provides direct technical assistance to several practices that tailor services to meet the needs of Hispanic/Latino residents. With coaching support from Integrated Care DC, for example, La Clínica del Pueblo implemented a new clinical skills training program, workflow enhancements, and staffing adjustments. As a result, La Clínica expanded its integrated behavioral health services and reduced its waiting list for mental health care. As Hispanic Heritage Month comes to a close, you can join La Clínica on October 14, 2023 for its 40th anniversary celebration, La Fiesta del Barrio.

    As a provider, how can you better serve the health and behavioral health care needs of the District’s Latino and Hispanic residents?

    All providers serving DC Medicaid beneficiaries are responsible for ensuring translation and interpreter services are available for patients who need them (EPSDT Billing Manual), as are Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) licensed and certified providers (DBH Policy 500.1C). Policies and procedures to promote cultural competency and ensure language access are also included in the District’s Medicaid managed care organizations contracts.

    The National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) outlines 15 action steps for health and healthcare organizations to advance health equity, improve quality, and help eliminate healthcare disparities.

    The National Hispanic and Latino Mental Health Technology Transfer Center Network, funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, provides training, technical assistance, and resources to enhance behavioral health service delivery to Hispanic and Latino communities.

    The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services also offer useful tips and resources for serving individuals with limited English proficiency.

    Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ Latino Health and Community Resources Directory is for health providers serving Latino/Hispanic residents.