Partnership helps provide mental health services to Latino business owners

SPRINGFIELD – The Latino Economic Development Corporation has partnered with the Gándara Center to offer expanded behavioral health services to meet the needs of Latino small business owners seeking work-life balance.

“Our hope is that by offering these services, we will help those dealing with urgent mental health problems before they become a crisis situation,” said Lois Nesci, chief executive officer of Gándara.

The Built Together program provides bilingual and culturally proficient mental health services to support business owners and their families with urgent care services at one of Gándara Center’s two clinical locations at 2155 Main Street and St. 85 George Road, with extended evening and weekend hours.

Since the start of the pandemic, the center has seen an increase need for his services, said Jade Rivera-McFarlin, the Gándara Center’s vice president of fund development and community relations.

Officials at the center cited a 2020 report on Latino entrepreneurship that said business owners working long hours result in burnout, negative health impacts, prolonged states of stress and mental health issues related to diabetes and cardiovascular disease .

“The pandemic has kept everyone busy with their mental health. Needs were high and culture played a big role in whether or not we got the help we needed,” Rivera-McFarlin said. “The needle has moved a little bit to let us know what’s out there for help, but the stigma is still there.”

Gándara Center advocated for and provided culturally sensitive services for the Hispanic community in Springfield since 1977. The Gándara Center serves a diverse, multicultural clientele in more than 100 locations across the state, reaching more than 15,000 children, families and adults annually.

Among the resources participants can access from the Latino Economic Development Corporation are food pantry, family support, adult and adolescent behavioral health, home therapy, career search, housing, substance abuse services and more.

Andrew Melendez, director of operations at the Latino Economic Development Corporation, said therapy shouldn’t be for when things are terrible, but also when things are going well.

“I hear from business owners when times are tough, or even very successful. The weight on their shoulders working 70 hours a week can be hard on them and their family,” said Melendez. “Having a place to call and get extra support is essential to the success of their business.”

The Together Building program aims to create and maintain a better work-life balance when it comes to Latino, and other culturally diverse small business owners in the area.

“Times can be tough. “It’s hard to understand society and sometimes you just need a third party in an unbiased, clinical social setting to help talk through any situation before a crisis occurs,” said Melendez.

In the Hispanic community, starting a business, raising capital, finding public support and keeping the doors open can be difficult, Melendez said, and wellness needs to be a regular part of the business ecosystem.

“The unique thing is all the access points to the services and resources,” Melendez said. “It doesn’t matter if you go into business, or if you’ve been in business for 17 years. It’s not a cause-and-effect thing, you can enter just to stay focused.”

According to Melendez, one-on-one supports for business owners will also be available. Awards of up to $25,000 will be made available for business services in accounting, marketing, budgeting and expansion with one of the Latino Economic Development Commission’s 28 wealth-building coaches to build a healthy ecosystem for local businesses.

“With the support grant, business owners can have access to different skills in their toolbox,” Melendez said.

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