ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Kortney Loya loves her Mexican roots, and wanted to make sure she spoke the native language.
“I was so eager to learn and I read books and I did YouTube videos, I watched movies in Spanish with subtitles,” said Loya.
Years later, she’s using it to make her community a better place.
“My passion is to help people and just coming from the background of you know seeing that Hispanic Latino people coming to America and there’s a language barrier and they need help and so that’s just me wanting to use my language skills to help them,” says Loya.
That’s exactly what she does as a Community Health Worker for Virginia Harm Reduction Coalition. “Take them to appointments get them help with the mental health issues, their substance use disorders, even if they need to sign up for Medicaid or you know get WIC benefits and food stamps and things like that,” explained Loya.
According to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, only 35% of Hispanic and Latino Americans received mental health services compared to 52% of non-Hispanic whites.
Past year substance use disorder among Hispanic and Latino Americans was nearly 16% and 15% of their treatment needs were unmet.
The most sobering statistic? Suicide is the third leading cause of death among Hispanic and Latino Americans 10 to 24 years old.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration lists a lack of language-related needs as one of the many barriers to adequate care. That’s the driving force behind why Loya finds her work so fulfilling.
“It’s important to me because I feel like everyone deserves to have the proper medical care, the proper resources, the knowledge of the resources that this community provides for everyone,” said Loya.
“Realmente sueño con romper las barreras del idioma cuando se trata de atención médica, y el estigma de la adicción y el abuso de sustancias en nuestra comunidad. La comunidad en su conjunto se enfrenta a estos problemas como en cualquier otro lugar del mundo y a veces no tenemos gente que nos ayude a traducir esa información. Quiero educar a nuestra comunidad latina/hispana sobre los problemas de salud de los que tendrían miedo de hablar en una visita regular a los médicos… Trastornos de abuso de sustancias, trastornos de salud mental, educación sexual, planificación familiar y muchas otras cosas. Si necesitas que vaya a hablar contigo, si necesitas apoyo, quieres educación, necesitas respuestas a tus preguntas, o incluso si solo necesitas apoyo emocional o recursos… Estoy aquí para ayudar. Puedes ponerte en contacto conmigo en mi número de teléfono móvil del trabajo (540) 795-0127 o en email@example.com,” dice Loya.
In English, this means: “I really have a dream of breaking language barriers when it comes to health care and the stigma on addiction and substance abuse in our community. The community as a whole faces these issues just like everywhere else in the world and sometimes we don’t have people to help translate that information. I want to educate our Latino/Hispanic community about health issues they would be too afraid to talk about in a regular Doctor visit. Substance abuse disorders, mental health disorders, sexual education, family planning, and many other things. If you need me to come to you to talk, if you need support, want education, need questions answered, or even if you just need emotional support or resources, I am here to help. You can reach me at my work cell phone number (540) 795-0127 or at firstname.lastname@example.org”
Virginia Harm Reduction Coalition hosts a variety of outreach events each month.
If you need help, you can call them at (540) 541-2022 or e-mail them at email@example.com.