Se Habla Español

James E. Hayes, D. Min., M. Div., Executive Director, Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center

Se habla español.

 We are fortunate at the Center to have a number of native Spanish speakers. We are unfortunate in that we only have one counselor whose first language is Spanish. We are blessed to have Alicia! We are grateful, but aware that we could be doing so much more. Frankly, the needs are overwhelming.

Many of you know that I have a background in ministry and teaching. Along the way I’ve been fortunate to learn other languages and serve immigrant communities.

If you take a look at our website, you’ll see an entire section allocated to Spanish speaking stakeholders. We have been intentional in hiring practices recently and are grateful to have bilingual support staff to help clients and families with limited English skills. I am particularly grateful for connections we have with refugee services who helped to train one of our staff, but we could be doing so much more.

We have established a relationship with LUNA Iowa and their executive director, Melissa Cano Zelaya, to work with their clients who need mental health support. Here’s a description of their work from their website:

“L.U.N.A (Latinas Unidas Por Un Nuevo Amanacer)  Iowa was created in 1999 by a group of domestic abuse survivors who noticed the lack of resources available to the LatinX community in Iowa. Since then L.U.N.A Iowa has evolved into a state-wide organization with offices in Des Moines and Marshalltown, helping our survivors build a future free of violence.”

Many of these folks have suffered unspeakable trauma and I am glad we are here to help, but we could be doing so much more.

Look at the news most any day and you’ll hear some comment about the mental health crisis in Iowa. You can magnify that crisis by a massive number when it comes to access for non-English speakers. Many of these communities suffer from a lack a basic resources and mental health is certainly one. What makes this situation particularly unfortunate is that the stresses on these communities, combined with higher levels of stigma, means that those acutely in need of mental health services are not able to access them.

We appreciate the help of our community in supporting our client assistance funds so that we can help as many as we can regardless of ability to pay. We are also in need of help when it comes to workforce development of bilingual clinicians so that we can provide services to clients for whom English is not their first language. What else do we need?

  • A world that welcomes the stranger.
  • An openness to learning about other cultures.
  • Reimbursement rates that allow for a living wage so that more and diverse people consider this rewarding career.
  • Support for our training program to equip future generations of counselors with necessary skills.
  • Advocacy to improve services
  • Awareness that the need for our mission of providing hope and healing is greater than ever.

I hope these musings about just one issue indicate how much more we have to do together. Thank you for all you do to make this work possible.

To read more of Jim’s blogs, click HERE.

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