Mental health is just as important as medical care for underserved communities, and CHRISTUS St. Mary’s Clinic is seeing a greater demand for mental health services among its patients. “Mental health has not been a major focus previously in low-income communities,” said Richard Torres, CHRISTUS Foundation for HealthCare President. “COVID-19 has made it more of a pronounced issue and has made us put more attention to it.”
For the predominantly Hispanic community that the clinic serves, the threat of COVID-19 is even more severe. According to Harris County Public Health data, Hispanics make up 50 percent of hospitalized cases within the county, as well as sixty percent of those residents who have tested positive.
Since 2011, CHRISTUS St. Mary’s Clinic has provided vital healthcare services to the East End community. Seventy-percent of the area’s population are Hispanic, many of which are immigrants living below the poverty level. “Our patients are those who don’t qualify for federal help and are unable to access other forms of health coverage,” Torres said.
While general healthcare is critical for these patients, a need for mental healthcare was becoming obvious. “Medical conditions were just the beginning,” Torres said. “As the physicians at CHRISTUS St. Mary’s Clinic dug deeper, they realized there were more mental health issues that they were dealing with.”
Through a partnership with Catholic Charities, mental healthcare providers are now available to clinic patients. “Our patients don’t have any options,” Torres said. “That’s what makes it so unique about what we are doing.”
Addressing chronic conditions with healthcare in conjunction with counseling is providing our patients with healthier outcomes.