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Oct 10, 2018 | Paulette E. Martin

New Behavioral Health Program Supports Harvey Survivors Dealing with Trauma


Marisol Salgado is the new bilingual mental health counselor at St. Paul's, Houston

A new mental health program at St. Paul’s, Houston offers free counseling services in Spanish to low-income families who are still dealing with the aftermath of Harvey.

St. Paul’s vicar, the Rev. Ed Gomez noticed his congregation, located near Hobby Airport, was suffering a spike in anxiety related issues following the historic flood in August 2017.

“Immediately after Harvey we saw visible and dramatic increase in mental health issues that included anxiety, depression, isolation, and sexual violence and assault. [I believe these] were related to unemployment and people being evicted from their homes because they couldn’t pay their rent,” Gomez said.

The mental health care program—the first of its kind in the Diocese—is supported with a grant awarded from Episcopal Relief & Development and The Episcopal Diocese of Texas. Funding covers a bilingual, licensed professional counselor who will also work with people in two other Spanish-speaking Episcopal churches, the North Pasadena Community Outreach at St. Peter’s, Pasadena and San Mateo, Bellaire. More than a dozen people have accessed the program in its first days of operation.

“It is really critical to have a woman counselor who can facilitate other women to come forward and seek help, to give them a voice. It is difficult for some—out of shame, out of guilt, out of stigma—to be able to express very intimate details,” Gomez said.

Marisol Salgado, a behavioral health specialist, has been working with Latino immigrants for more than eight years and is excited to take on the new role at St. Paul’s. Salgado is bilingual and bicultural. Her parents are from El Salvador and Mexico—the two most dominant cultures at St. Paul’s so she comes with an affinity for the local population.

“It can be challenging to help the Latino community because of the stigma mental health has [in the culture]. Most think seeking help is a big taboo,” Salgado said. She said her experience has been helpful to low-income Latinos because she is able to easily build a rapport with her patients.

Salgado shares most of her patients who have come forward are dealing with family dysfunctional problems due to financial instability and stress after Harvey.

“In many instances, I’ve met a mother who is dealing with depression, her husband is dealing with anger. Often times, those emotions create a lot of anxiety in their children,” Salgado said.

Salgado is able to work with families but admits that past traumas can contribute to the amount of counseling someone may need. When appropriate, she is able to refer her patients to other agencies, such as Hope Clinic. 

St. Paul’s behavioral health program is a Diocese of Texas “Harvey Hub” which is powered by grants from Episcopal Relief & Development and the Diocese of Texas Quin Foundation.