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New State, Federal Policies Could Alleviate COVID-19 Stress On Latinx Communities

Dr. Margarita Alegría, Magaly Santos and Gilberto Pérez discuss the outsized effect of COVID-19 on Latinx mental health as part of a discussion hosted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (Screenshot Zoom)

Latinx communities represent a high portion of essential workers, and have also been hit hardest by lost jobs and reduced hours during the pandemic. A group of community leaders and researchers offered some recommendations to address the mental health stressors highlighted by COVID-19. 

In the most recent data, 2 in 5 Latinos report frequent symptoms of anxiety or depression due to stressors highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gilberto Pérez, Bienvenido Community Solutions president and Goshen city councilor, says in addition to the traditional programs that target mental health, there are other programs the state can implement. 

“One of the things that impacts the mental health of our community is the ability to be able to drive safely to work,” Pérez said.

House Bill 1138 and Senate Bill 319 would create driving cards, accessible without having to prove citizenship or lawful status. So far, neither bill has been heard in committee.

"You could say, well, is it really mental health legislation?" Pérez said. "And I would say, to a certain degree, yes it is. Because it is actually providing people an opportunity to get where they need to go, with more calm, more tranquility, more safety."

READ MORE: How Do I Follow Indiana's Legislative Session? Here's Your Guide To Demystify The Process

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Pérez and other experts said, during the pandemic, 40 percent of Latinos reported avoiding seeking out medical care or social services out of fear of immigrant policies.

Dr. Margarita Alegría is a Harvard Medical School professor and researcher on the mental health of immigrant and non-immigrant Latinx communities. 

She says with the harsher immigration policies of the Trump administration, 65 percent of immigrant Latinx parents reported they are often worried about their family being separated.

“This pandemic has just raised and amplified the problems that the Latino community has,” Alegría said.

Alegría made recommendations about federal policies – like earmarking future COVID-19 aid for communities of color and businesses operated by people of color – and strategies individual communities could take, like affordable housing and school-based mental health services.

Contact Lauren at or follow her on Twitter at @laurenechapman_.