A team of counseling psychology graduate students led by a University of Georgia professor is improving the availability of mental health care for the Athens-area Latino population.
Edward Delgado-Romero, a professor in the department of counseling and human development services in the UGA College of Education, recently launched two counseling programs at local clinics. By bringing six bilingual doctoral-level students into the community, dozens of locals have had access to counselors in their native language.
Prior to the programs, Delgado-Romero said, he and one other mental health professional were the only licensed bilingual counselors in the five-county area.
The work allows the graduate students to gain valuable clinical experience, which is a requirement for their degree. While they could choose to earn their hours anywhere, by working with the local Latino population the students are helping an underserved population while gaining valuable real-world experience in a bilingual setting.
Kristi Gilleland, director of whole person care at Mercy Health Center, said the addition of mental health services addresses a need expressed by nearly half of their entire patient population. A 2012 patient survey found that nearly 50 percent of Mercy's patients had a mental health need or diagnosis.
"We've definitely seen an increase in benefits in just the short time we've offered the service," Gilleland added. "The partnership has been incredible, and working with Ed, Linda Campbell and (fellow professor) Bernadette Hickman-they have been instrumental in bringing students here and expanding mental health services for our patients."