The Latinx Leadership Initiative (LLI), an initiative within Boston College’s School of Social Work, has partnered up with Mass General Brigham, the commonwealth’s largest healthcare provider, to improve healthcare for Latinx communities across the state, the University announced this month.
The LLI’s mission is centered around training social workers who can effectively promote health and wellness for Latinx patients. This mission, according to Rocío Calvo, who founded the initiative in 2013, is what caught the attention of Mass General Brigham.
“We work especially with the Latinx community,” Calvo said. “So when [Mass General] Brigham decided to tackle the systemic health inequities by strengthening the training of Latinx social workers, which is what we do in the LLI right, they just came to see if we were interested in partnering with them.”
Due to these inequities, it has always been difficult for the Latinx community to receive quality healthcare, a problem that has been exacerbated by the pandemic, Calvo said. The COVID-19 pandemic has left the Latinx community struggling with not only physical needs, but mental ones as well.
“After COVID, we have a much higher need of mental health services and behavioral health,” Calvo said. “But it is difficult to find providers, and even more difficult—we had this difficulty before COVID—to find providers of that language who are culturally concordant for the Latinx community. So we have this disparity before COVID, but COVID has exacerbated it.”
To address this growing problem, the LLI has received a $600,000 Community Fellows Grant from Mass General Brigham, which will be directly invested in BC students in the form of stipends, seminars, research, and other means of professional development.
“Our plan is to invest in our students, which is the best asset that we have,” Calvo said. “They are the ones that are doing the work in the community, right?”
Calvo attributed the success of the LLI to both the students and staff within the initiative who seek to improve the communities around them. Calvo runs the initiative alongside its assistant director, Ximena Soto.
“My students come from the Latinx community, so they are already experts and they’re already leaders,” Calvo said. “What they learn in the School of Social Work is how to become social workers, but they already bring everything else. That’s how they are so efficient working with the community because they know it better than anyone.”
This connection is a unique strength of the LLI, Calvo said.
“Before, social work has been a little bit too focused on the medical model, you know, and LLI includes the continental components, linguistic components, and really, the expert is always the community, not the social workers,” Calvo said. “That’s why LLI is so fantastic. This is the work of countless people.”
Featured Image by Nicole Vagra / Heights Staff