Promotoras: Bilingual Peer Specialists for Community Outreach and Assistance

Objective: To assist Latinos, including individuals who are monolingual or Limited English Proficient (LEP), in enrollment and retention in programs and services, such as substance abuse and mental health treatment.

Description: This profile highlights promotoras models from two Latino-serving organizations.  The New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addictions Agencies, Inc. (NJAMHAA) serves Latinos (mainly Puerto Ricans) in the local service area. NJAMHAA trains organizations to become culturally sensitive and competent and to use bilingual individuals as promotores, peer specialists, community support workers and educators, and patient navigators. The agency uses bilingual peer specialists and navigators; uses interpreters to work with families/consumers; uses translators to help staff; assesses the language fluency and proficiency of staff; and provides incentives for bilingual staff.

Campesinos Sin Fronteras (CSF) serves Latinos in the border region.  CSF uses bilingual promotores to advocate for monolingual patients at provider offices, to assist in making appointments, and to train other promotores who are not bilingual. They also use a range of approaches and strategies with promotores to include: providing face-to-face patient assistance including home-based assistance to complete applications and prepare paperwork; serving as a Presumptive Eligibility Qualified Entity; and assisting families in enrolling their children in state children’s health insurance program (CHIP). This service is critical to the CSF service area where Spanish is the primary language and where the day-to-day business and social interactions are conducted in Spanish. The program seeks to address issues of access to community services and language barriers that affect monolingual and LEP individuals, and inadequate information about who is eligible for public assistance, health care and other community resources.

CSF uses a wide range of language access tools and practices to include:

  • Use of bilingual promotores, interpreters, translators and language brokers to assist consumers
  • Use of translators and language brokers to assist staff
  • Training of monolingual staff on how to use interpreters
  • Translation of all written materials into Spanish

Results/Accomplishments/Evidence: CSF has been recognized by state and federal agencies in their language access model in the use of promotores. CSF is one of the nation’s leading Promotores models and the best practices used by the agency are replicated by other organizations. CSF always maintains a pool of 20-40 volunteers who strengthen the workforce and service model delivered in the community. The program also produced a well recognized PSA and high public response to outreach efforts.

Population of Focus: NJAMHAA —  Hispanic or Latino, Adults, Children, Adolescents, Transition aged, Elderly, Limited English Proficient; CSF — Hispanic or Latino, Adults, Transition aged, Adolescents, Children, Elderly, HIV/AIDS, Homeless, Immigrants, Indigenous, Limited English Proficient, Sexual and gender minorities, Women

Setting: NJAMHAA — Urban, Suburban, Rural and/or frontier, Workplace, local, county or state department/office; CSF — Promotores will work in work sites often times in farms, fields, transportation pickup locations, and other farmworker environments. Also; Border area, Rural and/or frontier, Community health center, Faith-based organization, Emergency room/clinic, Mental health clinic, Substance abuse clinic, Home/housing, Hospital, Parks & recreation, School, Residential facility, Workplace, Court, Correctional facility, Community center, primary care facility, local, county or state department/office.

Level of Intervention: Individual, Family, Community, City, County, State

Resources/Qualifications Needed: NJAMHAA — Funds to train organizations and to hire bilingual, bicultural workers, peer specialists, patient navigators, etc.; CSF — All of the agency staff (including clerical, promotores, administrators and program staff) must provide language access services. Staff must demonstrate proficiency and fluency in Spanish.  All promotores must be highly familiar with community resources, and be able to work intensively with individuals and families in community settings off site and at hours more conducive to engagement and participation in receiving assistance.  CSF always leverages resources to train promotores from its own discretionary funds, but promotores begin as volunteers who offer their time in exchange for training and building their skills and capacity. CSF also offers pay incentives to bilingual staff. Outreach campaigns require content material, messaging and language appropriate content for reading level, local patois, phrases and terminology used on a daily basis by families and that appeal to the public.

Partners: NJAMHAA — 180 members of the trade organization; CSF — Agency on Aging, Department of Health Services, University of Arizona, City of San Luis, City of Somerton, community health centers, public health department, and media outlets

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.

Campesinos Sin Fronteras (CSF) is a 501(C)3 non-profit, grassroots organization serving migrant & seasonal farm workers and other members of the low-income Hispanic community in Yuma County, Arizona. CSF is based on the promotora model of services to community residences. The history of CSF focused on meeting the needs of farmworkers and their families. The agency develops multiple partnerships to ensure an effective mastery of community resources and works with multiple partners including:  faith based organizations, Head Start, Immigration Centers, FQHCS, Consumer Assistance Programs, and Hispanic Serving organizations.


Debra L. Wentz, Chief Executive Officer
New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addictions Agencies, Inc.
609-838-5488, ext. 292
3575 Quakerbridge Road, Suite 102, Mercerville, New Jersey 08619

Emma Torres
Executive Director
PO Box 423/201 Bingham, Arizona 85350