US Surgeon General discusses need for more mental health services in Latino community

Dr. Vivek Murthy says his office is working on expanding mental health services to communities that need them the most

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy spoke with KSAT to discuss what his office is doing to help Latinos gain access to mental health treatment.

SAN ANTONIO – Hispanics are half as likely as whites to get mental health treatment, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It’s a startling statistic that U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy thinks needs to change. He spoke with KSAT to discuss what his office is doing to help Latinos gain access to mental health treatment.

Getting help for mental health is a topic that has gained more attention since the COVID-19 pandemic began and the recent school massacre in Uvalde.

“We are not going to forget about them,” Murthy said, referring to those who need mental health services.

Since the May 24 massacre at Robb Elementary that ended the lives of 19 children and two adult teachers, the majority Hispanic city of Uvalde has had something that it didn’t have before -- expanded mental health counseling.

The Uvalde Together Resiliency Center, run by the Ecumenical Center and the Uvalde County District Attorney’s Office, opened immediately after the tragic shooting. Leaders hope to keep the facility open through the next five years.

In the meantime, Murthy said the people of Uvalde will also get help at the federal level.

“This community has been traumatized, and it may have been a moment in time that created this pain, but that pain and trauma will last for a long time,” he said. “We’ve got to be able to provide the support, the mental health support, that that community needs.”

Outside of Uvalde, Murthy said his office is also on a mission to expand access to mental health care for everyone. He said leaders in Washington are on board.

“We’ve already invested a significant amount of money from the American Rescue Plan from 2021 into the workforce development. So that’s a key measure,” he said. “The second thing that we’re working on is to make sure that we strengthen something called the Parity Law. This is a law that would make it easier to get care because it would require insurance companies to reimburse fairly for mental health services.”

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, enacted in 2008, requires insurance companies to cover mental health conditions, including substance use disorders.

Click here to see all of KSAT’s Uvalde coverage

About the Author:

Stephania Jimenez is an anchor on The Nightbeat. She began her journalism career in 2006, after graduating from Syracuse University. She's anchored at NBC Philadelphia, KRIS in Corpus Christi, NBC Connecticut and KTSM in El Paso. Although born and raised in Brooklyn, Stephania considers Texas home. Stephania is bilingual! She speaks Spanish.