Partnership helps provide mental health services to Latino business owners

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

“We hope that by providing these services, we will help those who are dealing with urgent mental health issues in an emergency,” said Gándara CEO Lois Nesci.

The Co-Building Program provides bilingual and culturally proficient mental health services to support business owners and their families at 2155 Main Street and 85 St. George Road with extended evening and weekend hours.

The number of people at the center has increased since the start of the pandemic Its services are needed, said Jade Rivera-McFarlin, vice president of development and community relations for the Gandara Center Fund.

Officials at the center cited a 2020 report on Latino entrepreneurship that said business owners working long hours can lead to burnout, negative health effects, chronic stress states, and mental health related to diabetes and cardiovascular disease question.

“The pandemic has left everyone dealing with their own mental health issues. Whether we’re getting the help we need or not, the need is rising, and culture has played a huge role,” Rivera-McFarlin said. “The needle moved a little bit to let us know what was there to help, but the stigma remained.”

The Gandara Center advocates and provides Providing culturally sensitive services to Springfield’s Hispanic community since 1977.Gandara Center is Diverse, multicultural clients in more than 100 locations across the state, reaching over 15,000 children, families and adults annually.

Resources available to Latino Economic Development Corporation participants include food pantries, family supports, adult and adolescent behavioral health, family therapy, career finding, housing, substance abuse services, and more.

Andrew Melendez, director of operations for the Hispanic Economic Development Corporation, said therapy should not come when things are going bad, but when things are going well.

“I hear the voices of business owners in tough times, even when they are very successful. The burden of their 70-hour workweek can be difficult for them and their families,” Melendez said. “Having a place to call and get extra support is critical to their business success.”

The co-build program aims to create and maintain a better work-life balance for Latinos and other culturally diverse small business owners in the region.

“Times can be tough. It’s hard to understand society, and sometimes you just need a third party in an impartial, clinical social environment to help resolve any situation before a crisis hits,” Melendez said.

In the Hispanic community, where starting a business, raising capital, seeking public support and keeping doors open can be difficult, benefits should be a regular part of the business ecosystem, Melendez said.

“What’s unique is all the entry points to services and resources,” Melendez said. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re going into business or have been in business for 17 years. It’s not cause and effect, you can sign up just to stay focused.”

There will also be one-on-one support for business owners, according to Melendez.Grants of up to $25,000 will be provided for business services in accounting, marketing, budgeting and expansion with one of the Latino Economic Development Council’s 28 wealth-building coaches to support healthy Ecosystem of local businesses.

“By supporting grants, business owners can have different skills in their toolbox,” Melendez said.

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