Faith-Based Outreach for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services

Objective: Expansion of mental health and substance abuse services to Latinos.

Description: Outreach on mental health and substance abuse services was done by peer specialists at places of worship in the community, often by local mental health agencies. Materials were available during Sunday church services and, depending on the congregation and its leadership, personnel were available to discuss mental health issues with congregants. Clergy were also invited to conferences and workshops to learn more about recognizing and referring congregants for treatment,and the clergy members could avail themselves of resources. The project provided tools such as those in the Enhancing Mental Health Service Delivery to Hispanics: An Online Toolkit for Eliminating Disparities online toolkit developed by the National Resource Center for Hispanic Mental Health. The toolkit is designed to assist mental health agency administrators, their governing leadership and direct service providers to attract, engage and serve Hispanics with cultural and linguistic competence. The tool kit is available online at Other brochures were also disseminated, such as the bilingual “Salud Mental Aprender los hechos.” The outreach was conducted locally, usually in the counties and cities with the highest prevalence of Hispanic residents.

Results/Accomplishments/Evidence: While outreach to churches was not measured specifically, state statistics during the implementation of diverse programs over nearly a decade indicated increased use of mental health services by Hispanics. While it is impossible to pinpoint any one practice that resulted in increased use of services, doing public service announcements, trainings, outreach in places of worship and making providers more culturally and linguistically competent helped to reduce stigma, engage more individuals into service and consequently resulted in better outcomes.

Population of Focus: Hispanic or Latino, Adults, Children, Adolescents, Transition aged, Elderly

Setting: Urban, Suburban, Faith-based organization

Level of Intervention: Community, Family, Individual

Resources/Qualifications Needed: Staff (including peer specialists) and overhead to do outreach, including funds for child care and transportation.

Partners: National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mental Health America, local mental health organizations, clergy

Background: The New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addictions Agencies, Inc. (NJAMHAA) is comprised of the leading mental healthcare and addiction treatment providers who treat New Jersey residents with mental illness, addictions or co-occurring disorders, as well as the families of these individuals. Our membership represents organizations in every county and almost every community statewide – nearly 98 percent of the behavioral healthcare market in New Jersey. NJAMHAA’s mission is to champion opportunities that advance its members’ ability to deliver accessible, quality, efficient and effective integrated behavioral healthcare services to consumers who have mental illnesses and/or addictions, and their families. NJAMHAA is committed to recovery and wellness for all consumers.


Debra L. Wentz, Chief Executive Officer
New Jersey Association of Mental Heatlh & Addictions Agency
609-838-5488, ext. 292
3575 Quakerbridge Road, Suite 102, Mercerville, New Jersey 08619