Partnership helps provide mental health services to Latino business owners

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SPRINGFIELD — The Latino Economic Development Corporation has partnered with the Gandara Center to offer extended behavioral health urgent care services to meet the needs of Latino small business owners seeking a work-life balance.

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

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

Since the start of the pandemic, the center has seen an increased need for its 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 results in burnout, negative health impacts, prolonged states of stress and mental health issues that are linked to diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

“The pandemic had everyone dealing with their mental health. Needs were up and culture has played a huge roll whether we get the help we need or not,” said Rivera-McFarlin. “The needle moved a little as far as letting us know what is out there for assistance, but the stigma is still there.”

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

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

Andrew Melendez, director of operations at the Latino Economic Development Corporation, said therapy should not 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 difficult for them and their family,” Melendez said. “Having a place to call and get extra support is crucial to the success of their business.”

The Built Together program aims to create and sustain 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 is 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 happens,” Melendez said.

In the Hispanic community, starting a business, raising capital, finding public support and keeping the doors open can be difficult, Melendez said, and wellbeing should factor into a regular part of the business ecosystem.

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

According to Melendez, one-on-one supports for business owners will also be available. Grants 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 support 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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