(courtesy image)

More than 40 community members from South L.A. neighborhoods gathered at Wellnest Emotional Health and Wellness on South Vermont Avenue in University Park for a critical, in-person conversation on the impact of mental health in Black and Brown communities.

The event was headlined by Wellnest President and CEO, Charlene Dimas-Peinado, the first Latina president in the organization’s history.

“May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and this is an opportunity to promote mental health and help reduce the mental health issues and disorders. Mental health issues include an inability to function day to day, to interact with other people, to focus, or self-regulate emotions,” said Dimas-Peinado.
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“At Wellnest, our top goals are access and equity to critically needed services, growing our services beyond our geographic area, and ensuring we are innovative in providing holistic, non-traditional health services that truly meet the needs of the communities that we serve,” she declared.

Hosting duties were performed by Andrea Salazar, Wellnest’s vice president of Advancement and External Affairs, who is responsible for overseeing all development activities for the organization, and raising awareness for its innovative initiatives and programs throughout LA County.

AltaMed Health Services vice president of Public Affairs Christina Sanchez moderated the discussion. “This month, we’re paying homage to our clinical workers. We really need to check in with our employees! So, today’s conversation is going to be about what employers are doing to provide work-life balance,” she said.

“At AltaMed, I ensure my clinicians and social workers are checking in with our patients and encouraging our community members to seek out resources nearby. Check in with someone you haven’t spoken with to say, ‘How are you, today?’ Because today may be different than yesterday,” said the former Univision anchorwoman.

Discussing the intake process, Wellnest Director of Intensive Services Dr. Anthony Durham noted, “We’re getting our referrals from the Department of Mental Health, and a lot of our services we provide are in the home with the client. We’re in the community, at parks, and in schools because our job is to keep children in the home with the biological parent, guardian or foster parent.

“We link them with highly skilled therapists or case managers to provide immediate intervention and community resources, including parent advocates with lived experiences — someone from our system who has been through an experience and who knows the nuances and complexities of dealing with those specific concerns,” Durham explained.

Dimas-Peinado added, “We’re aware of the huge need for mental health services for our children and families, and we’re responding to the best of our ability to ensure access to quality mental health services when they need it the most.”

In an earlier address, Olivia Rios, director of Operations and Programs at the Los Angeles Latino Chamber of Commerce, whose organization partners with Wellnest, rallied support behind fostering a community of Latino business leaders with new partnerships and opportunities at the state and local level.

Since 1924, Wellnest has empowered children and young adults to get on the track to success, reach goals in school, build healthy relationships, and enjoy emotional well-being. The organization provides mental health and full supportive services at four community-based service locations, 35 LAUSD schools, and in families’ homes.
To learn more, visit wellnestla.org.