Mental Health Disparities and Challenges in Immigrant Communities

Migration is often a traumatic experience, yet many cultures stigmatize mental health and make any topics of emotional well-being taboo. Panelists will describe what the research says about mental health in immigrants, refugees and unaccompanied minors. Mental health professionals and organizational leaders will describe how communities are currently serving immigrants with mental and behavioral healthcare needs. Panelists will describe opportunities to improve mental health care access for immigrant families. Speakers:

  • Senait Admassu, African Communities Public Health Coalition, Los Angeles -- Ms. Admassu is the founder of the African Communities Public Health Coalition (ACPHC), a Los Angeles based nonprofit organization. This organization was birthed from her passion for and understanding of the complexities of her underserved African communities. Ms. Admassu is extensively recognized for her expertise in community social mobilizing and culturally appropriate facilitation of trainings. In addition to providing community-based workshops and trainings to African Immigrants, Ms. Admassu assisted the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health (LACDMH) African/ African America (AAA) Under Represented Ethnic Population (UREP) subcommittee in assessing mental health service provision in the African Communities. Ms. Admassu currently serves on the LACDMH AAA-UREP subcommittee as a cultural broker.
  • Imelda Plascencia, Project Coordinator of Health Initiatives, Dream Resource Center, UCLA Labor Center -- Imelda Plascencia is the Project Coordinator of Health Initiatives at the Dream Resource Center of the UCLA Labor Center; addressing the lack of access and health resources for undocumented communities. For the past ten years, Imelda has organized with the immigrant rights movement as a Queer Undocumented activist. Her work centers on health justice and health access for immigrant communities, and intersectional organizing for LGBTQ immigrants. Imelda has previously coordinated Queer Dream Summer, a national summer internship program for UndocuQueer immigrant youth, and is a co-founder of IDEAS at Mt. SAC, the Queer Undocumented Youth Collective and the CIRCLE Project; initiatives that intentionally address intersectional immigrant issues. Imelda is a lead researcher on the study Undocumented and Uninsured.
  • Gustavo Loera, EdD, Mental Health Research Consultant, Center for Reducing Health Disparities, U.C. Davis, School of Medicine -- Dr. Gustavo Loera's research centers on grassroots community and educational capacity-building. In particularly, reducing behavioral health disparities using a community-based participatory research approach aimed at prevention and early intervention. His work with schools in California builds on the importance of a diverse health and mental health workforce as a critical factor in improving equity and access to quality health care. Recently he’s been collaborating with UC Davis Center for Reducing Health Disparities on conducting research that addresses mental health disparities for historically underserved communities.
  • John Durall, Amanecer Community Counseling Service, Mental Health Therapist, Los Angeles -- John Durall is a mental health therapist at Amanecer Community Counseling Service in Los Angeles. He is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with more than 30 years of experience working with youth, adults, and families. In the mid-1980s, he counseled individuals and families fleeing the civil war in El Salvador. Now he is working with a new generation escaping strife in Central America, providing individual and group therapy to teens and young people arriving in the United States as unaccompanied and undocumented minors.
  • Dr. Tedla Wolde-Giorgis, Office of the Minister, Ministry of Health Addis Ababa, ETHIOPIA & Advisor, African Communities Public Health Coalition -- Dr. Tedla Wolde-Giorgis is an advisor on mental health with the Ethiopian Ministry of Health and a senior consultant and one of the founders of the African Communities Public Health Coalition in Los Angeles. Previously, he served as head of the Multicultural Services Division (MSD) in the department of mental health of the District of Columbia. In this position, he was responsible for overseeing the development and provision of mental health services to the ethnic and linguistic minority communities of the District of Columbia. A recognized expert on the mental health of diaspora groups, Dr. Giorgis has trained over 350 case managers in 10 US Cities for the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement.
  • Tessie Borden, Communications Director, CARECEN Los Angeles -- Tessie Borden joined CARECEN Los Angeles this year as Director of Communications in response to the unaccompanied minors emergency. She is also in charge of coordinating advocacy efforts around this issue, determining how to reach out to lawmakers and helping craft policy initiatives. Tessie has been in the nonprofit arena for seven years. Before that, she spent almost 20 years as a journalist covering immigration issues for newspapers across the country. She was a foreign correspondent in Mexico City for the Arizona Republic newspaper from 2000 to 2004. She has a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Houston and is finishing a Master’s degree in Latin American Studies at Cal State LA.