Fight fire with mental health services

“It’s just the trauma of living paycheck to paycheck. Putting food on the table. Normal challenges in our life. Then, you compound that with the fact of the wildfires.” – Jade Weymouth, executive director of La Familia Sana

Jade Weymouth is the executive director of La Familia Sana, a California-based nonprofit focused on providing culturally cognizant solutions around issues of poverty, equity and access in the North Bay region of the state. In 2021, that region was devastated by a series of wildfires.

During a long-term recovery committee (LTRC) meeting attended by Weymouth and colleagues, local recovery leaders and residents disclosed that they were struggling to cope each day as recovery slogged onward. In particular, Weymouth noticed that Spanish-speaking community members were describing their deteriorating mental health, and Spanish-language counseling was hard to find – even harder without employer-sponsored insurance.

When the glaring lack of appropriate mental health services in this wildfire-devastated community became apparent to staff at La Familia Sana, the team got to work.

In Sonoma County, Weymouth and her team knew that despite the size of the Spanish-speaking population, accessing Spanish-language counseling services usually required travel. With a grant from the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP)’s California Wildfires Fund, La Familia Sana crafted a mental health outreach and service provision program for the underserved Latinx community within the Cloverdale and Geyersville areas.

Over the 12-month grant period, counseling professionals from La Familia Sana’s community partner, On the Margins, offered 469 hours of Spanish-language individual, couples and family therapy sessions inside La Familia Sana’s office in Cloverdale. Sessions focused on relieving emotional distress, adapting to unchangeable life circumstances, and improving aspects of clients’ lives and relationships, a service component that was buoyed by another key program element: building community networks. Critically, these bicultural, bilingual counseling services were provided at no cost to the 130+ program participants and were designed to be strengths-based, culturally- and trauma-responsive, resiliency-focused, and liberation-driven.

By removing the cost of co-pays, waiving employer-sponsored insurance requirements, and eliminating travel and lengthy wait times for appointments with Spanish-speaking providers, La Familia Sana saw increased enthusiasm for proactive mental health measures among their community. Participation is so strong that the organization has committed to continuing services, and CDP is proudly partnering with them once again.

By holistically fostering community resiliency among frontline agricultural and hospitality laborers with counseling and resource navigation tailored to their unique needs and considerate of their unique stressors, La Familia Sana has positioned Sonoma County for a more equitable recovery.

Our partners like La Familia Sana understand that equitable recovery must be holistic – it cannot be solely about rebuilding structures and promoting economic improvement in an affected region. By designing thoughtful, culturally-responsive and trauma-responsive supportive services for their neighbors, La Familia Sana and their partners have demonstrated that individual mental health services that promote resilience and are accessible to the households least likely to be offered these services are not only welcomed by communities impacted by disasters, but they are crucial to a just, equitable and responsible recovery for all.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash