Background: Scarcity of trained mental health professionals who speak the language and understand Latino cultures is a significant challenge in Oregon. Latinos, particularly immigrants, present to health settings with a variety of psychosomatic symptoms associated with emotional distress. Generalized fear in an anti-immigrant environment is an exacerbating problem that alienates Latinos, regardless of citizenship or immigration status, preventing them from accessing mental health services. The value of community health workers (CHWs) in addressing the health disparities of marginalized groups is immeasurable, and has the potential to be expanded to also assist in meeting the mental health needs of Latino communities.

Objectives: The role of CHWs in providing help to Latinos who are not served by traditional mental health services is explored.

Methods: This qualitative, participatory research study, codesigned and delivered by CHWs, reports on the experiences of CHWs working with Latinos in Oregon. Focus groups and a survey were used to gather data from CHWs about their experiences responding to the psychoemotional needs of Latinos.

Results: CHWs significantly contribute to meeting the gap in provision of culturally relevant crisis intervention, in the language of Latinos in need. Latinos in Oregon rarely make use of traditional mental health services and/or the services offered are linguistically and culturally inadequate.

Conclusions: Health care providers are encouraged to attend to both the mental health and physical needs of Latinos in culturally informed and sensitive ways. Given the shortage of adequately trained mental health providers, CHWs are key in accomplishing these goals.