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Promoting good mental health in Hispanic communities next evening exchange. Hi I'm Kojo. We don't often talk about the importance of good mental health in communities of color but the rates of suicide and attempted suicide are alarmingly high especially in young Latina adolescents. Suicide prevention and treatment efforts reach this population less than any other ethnic group. Congresswoman Grace Napolitano of the 38 District of California is a leader in addressing mental health and other concerns of not only Hispanics but seniors and veterans as well. Congresswoman the pope welcomed the next day.
Thank you so very much for having character it's a pleasure. Glad to have you grew up in the border town of Brownsville Texas. That is you were born and raised in the United States but I'm willing to wager that by having the name Grace Napolitano a lot of people simply assume you are an immigrant. Very true in fact they assume that I'm Italian by the name that's true. No I'm mexican my husband's Italian. Yes but you grew up in that border town. How did that affect your view of immigration. Well my mother was an immigrant married my father from Texas and so they're looked upon as a second class citizen when we were in the border town we had to carry a birth certificate because at any time the Border Patrol would ask is anywhere in the city where you are serve back those days in the in the 30s and 50s was 136 and it was important because border towns economy is based on immigration.
They come in and they shop in the United States for the U.S. products. And to be able to work with those areas you have to be bilingual. But then you also get treated because you're neither a Mexican national nor you are a true American and so you live in both worlds. However you have been living in a different kind of world for a really long time. Nevertheless having grown up in that border town having them this is a surprise to me I didn't realize the require to carry your birth certificate became necessary because the Border Patrol could stop you at any time even as we're having a big debate today about whether we should have national ID. There was a time when you had to carry I.D. That is correct anyway. Nevertheless today you are seen as an advocate for immigration. Tell us what your view of immigration is that it. Well if you see around any state you go you will find immigrant labor whether it's that the restaurants or at the same anywhere.
Especially in agriculture. And people do not realize that it's an inherent part of our economy. They buy they have to live they have to eat they have to drive or take a bus and they pay the taxes through those particular entities in we rely on that economy. Unfortunately some people think that's all they want to do is come in and sign up for a benefit they don't want to be on anybody's list because then you can own and those that use false of Social Security. That money stays in Social Security. What I say rewarded and that is what's helping sustain so security presently 7.1 billion dollars when we really need it was we were discussing a little earlier we have visas for 5000 but we have over 11 million living in the United States. So that indicates we need reform to be able to allow immigrant workers to fill the jobs that are necessary
in this country. A number of your colleagues in the house that you should criminalize illegal you should criminalize the people. And I often wonder do people into this country think of themselves as criminals think of themselves as coming here in order to commit a crime. Absolutely not. Ninety nine percent of the people that want to have money to send to their families they want a better life for their wives and their children back home. Eventually they would want to have their families with them to be able to partake of this American dream in the United States. They want to work and they work two jobs in their work get paid into the table which is in the shadow of our economy. You ultimately feel that if people enter this country illegally if they are in fact working and if they are paying taxes the should be a path for them at some point to become a legal immigrant I think that has to be true for all the immigrants that come the United States and overstay their be sis.
And we have them from every country in the world you can think of it isn't just south of the border and I think it's time that we realize that again that those people have worked have contributed this economy and some of them more than 15 20 years and they're still not able to get their citizenship that this country is is built. It was how would I say successful because of the immigrants that came and made it the country that it is that without those hardworking individuals this country would suffer. Ever since you entered the California State Assembly and moved back to your peer group before that in the middle but ever since the end of the California State Assembly you have achieved the reputation for being interested in international. Would that imply spring. Well I understand that we are the largest trading partner for many countries that we have the best in. Wherever you go in the world you will find that U.S. products covet it so when we
want to ensure that in through in after we lost a lot of the business to south of the border and now China is taking over a lot of that industry that a lot of that trade and I feel we need to help small business find markets in other places. I don't want to lose my business if I want to find markets for them. Because the small business is the backbone of our economy it would make sense for us to assist small business in that endeavor. One of the reasons I brought that up is because a lot of your colleagues on the immigration issue feel that we simply need to seal off the board to build the fence but the National Guard the the whatever you seem to feel that it is important to look at the mission south of the border and see what can be done to stop the flow of illegal immigration by improving conditions and simply put the United States helps the rest of the world economically whether AIDS or any other projects. Yet we put very little people south of the border. So is that hypocritical of us of saying we want to improve conditions south of
the border but we're not going to help you do it. But by the way we need your cheap labor. But go home when you're done with it it's a talking out of both sides of your mouth and I think we need to understand that the resources south of the border with Mexico or South America are tremendous. We have not yet tapped into and we have many of the countries like China and Germany and Japan going into those countries and benefiting from that trade that we are ignoring. As I said before you went to the California State Assembly before you got into politics you had a professional successful professional career working with Ford motos and therefore you are a part of the American love affair with the automobile. But as we live in an era of rising gas prices do you think we need to be changing the way in which we regard our automobiles at some point. The way in which we live in but the rise in gas prices may ultimately force us to be. Well I think it's already very evident that we need to start looking at alternative fuels.
That has been something that not only California but other states have been looking at for years. The problem is is there's always been the monopoly of the get the gasoline working with the automobile industry to continue to expand on gas customers what are called the major gas guzzlers. They don't build the economic cars that could be utilized by those that that don't want to spend a lot of gasoline or that are students or single parents or people who wouldn't need a more fuel efficient vehicle. The companies have done their research and development that they don't want to do it is something that I think they're beginning to understand it's a necessity because now you have foreign companies coming in and taking over the majority of that business by providing alternative and hybrid fuel cars. Indeed it seems as if we're going from the nation of the Americas of the hybridization of America because of rising gas.
Before you again went to the California State Assembly you started out in politics. We'll at least from what you know of the new RAM for the city council in your hometown of Norwalk it is correct by how many votes that you win your for city council and. Two years of hard work $35000 and 20 votes later. Who then must have been an all nighter 20 28 vote. We hung out until the last of the provisional votes were cast and counted and it was a nail biter. It was quite a memory that we have because I was the first individual to unseat an incumbent in the first female Hispanic to be elected to the city council. And they thought you couldn't do it maybe because you were both female on this planet. That is correct and it was a challenge at the con very seriously. And your colleagues in the city council events will be elevated to the position of merit so you are able to work both on the legislative side and on the executives.
That it was very true and I think because we were telecast and our meetings were telecast. My counselor at the beginning had a little bit of reticence to work with me because I had dared to challenge the establishment. But eventually they saw that I was willing to work any way that would benefit the general public the ones that elected all of us and I think that eventually changed their mind to work with me because they were in the beginning. And when I say not wanting to be very very supportive. Then you move on to the California State Assembly as I mentioned earlier you develop a reputation for having an interest in international trade. You also developed a reputation that seemed to have begun there for being interested in environmental issues. Can you talk a little bit about. Well generally it was water simply because Southern California has its cycles of drought and most of the water of course comes from Northern California through the hatch of the mountains
and we were always having two paths bongs to improve the water infrastructure and that got me more interested because in the city council level I had certain scent which deals a lot with the water issues. And eventually I begin to see how important it is for a community to understand how water affects their economy. If you have water you be able to attract business if you have potable water you can utilize it for a number of areas whether it's for your residence or for agriculture. Many many things and we don't have new sources of water so we have to be protective not only of what we have the cleanup but we have misused abuse and then it was the Congress of the United States how difficult was that was that the one back in late June that you. Will is just say that I was not supposed to be the candidate nor the winner.
My predecessor had. His son in law that was running against you so I ran against two people basically and everybody thought chill never make it. And I says just watch. And I won by six hundred and one thousand votes and a big struggle. I cashed in my Ford stock for my retirement and I put it in it so am I viable. And I know that I can do the job. What do you think in that was able to help me started that level rather than trying to ask everybody for money to be able to more articulate more on the issues themselves the financial sacrifice and in the case of about exactly how serious you were going to be about all of this. And I'm thinking of two indications of your seriousness after you came here to Washington. The first is that you chaired the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Talk a little bit about that experience. Well it's very very grateful to my colleagues for allowing me to be able to write to that. You go through service and faces.
But there's 21 of us in the caucus and we all from different areas in many states and mostly from California but from Texas and Arizona and New York. And what we all have we all have great intellect in in different areas. And they bring that to the table where it makes it very very. The verse areas that we cover is small business either of Alaska is the ranking member education immigration research read good theater and the task forces themselves recommend. The clock is the stance we need to take. They have to to actually convince us and then we vote in support those measures and then we work with the Black Caucus and caucus the tri caucus we formed four years ago and we work in tandem and some of those issues that are important like Voting Rights Act and now right now because the issues immigration we're working on that together. Also you will be remembered for being a co-founder of the
Congregational Mental Health Caucus. You're no culture of that. Tell us how that came into you. Well because I have a mental hospital in my back yard and I dealt with them when I was in the state level that I was asking whether or not we had a Mental Health Caucus in Washington what had been dormant in every by bit. And we asked Tim Murphy who is Jim Murphy who's the psychologist that came in about four years ago to be my co-chair in the race. Let me go Republican. We want to make sure it was bipartisan because then you get a lot more interaction with both sides. And that's essential to be able to bring anything especially in this day and age to the forefront in committees or to be able to work together. One of the reasons you got so interested in mental health issues is when you saw the results of a study that was conducted among Latina women indicating the rates of suicide among teenage girls is probably the highest in the nation.
It is possible an organization came to Washington some six years ago and indicated to the Hispanic caucus that this was an issue that they had come across and it was attempted suicide. That's the highest suicide. It's not quite as high but it is so excited so high it's in Samsa substance abuse. I had a little money and we started a program in my area with one high school in the middle schools where we placed a psychotherapist on site and it has been so successful. Both the state in the federal Department of Health. Love it. They don't want to run. And I have to every year go begging for funds to be able to keep that alive. And it has managed to not only deal with the issues of depression in suicide prevention. They've not had a suicide in the years that have been in effect and the teachers the administrators and other schools now refer students to those schools for assistance. They had become so well accepted and
usually people think of mental health as crazy. It in it's treatable illness is the disease itself. But mental health. 90 percent 99 percent maybe even can be assisted with proper treatment once it is diagnosed and the sad part is that right now with that PTSD many of our soldiers who are two and three times are 90 percent I would venture to say they saved more like 65 percent. I think it's higher than that are going to need new services because of what they've seen and the stress that they put him through in the deployments in the redevelopment. How do you deal with the difficulty of getting mental health services with a lot of health insurance plans that you could build off or skim. Well that's one of the things Mr Murphy and I are trying to do is add mental health services to the medical provision of the health delivery system is to be one of the services offered medical services.
Is that because we as a society do not think of mental health as a health issue we seem to think of it still stigmatized as some kind of insanity. You're so correct. It has nothing to do with insanity. You may have lost a member of your family and you're depressed that depression if not treated could be a long term bipolar disorder which is very evident sometimes in some children. They had they had their ups and their downs they need to go a little bit crazy. That is treatable. Things like. Students in schools who are facing exams and pressured. You've heard of some of them committing suicide in in in those kids that are going out trying to shoot people because somebody has slighted that's treatable. I mean this if you can identify it in the school level it can be helped and these youngsters need to be able to be identified by the by their teachers or by their peers or by their parents even
if they don't learn what to look for. They are able then to seek help for them and be able to have those very productive students and an individuals you know I guess because if it doesn't happen to you you don't see how it happens to all of the. I was not intimidated by exiles but in college I had a good nap or wake up on the day of an exam. And we eventually realize that it was a form of the question that he had that he couldn't deal with had I not seen that I've had that experience I might have been doubtful. When I saw the signs of depression in other people. Is there any indication why the rate of attempted suicide was so high among Latino groups. Will the study said showing those that they have been able to speak to the youngsters. It's varied. It could be a difference in culture because a lot of the families may be first time immigrants and these children either were brought Iam or were raised here in the United States and they have the
parents culture and they have the culture they live in. It is totally different whether it's moral whether it's the differences in living arrangements and any kind of peer pressure. Television which is a different world from where they came from different standards. Ability for them to understand that they also have the right to be here or the right to be who they are and it's living in two worlds generally that holds them apart and they don't know which one to live in. It could be a boyfriend. Broke up with them and they are very depressed and so to them it's the end of their life. It's just very very diverse reasons but mostly it is peer pressure and cultural differences and a lot of people like to say well you can't simply throw money at a problem but you have been able to get over a million dollars into your district to deal with the problem of school aged teenagers.
Apparently you've got results very very very good results there. We're very thankful to say. It's just that we used a clinic that is bilingual is able to reach the families because they were not only with the child but with the family and the teachers. And they've been able to instruct the teachers and the administration how to be aware of the signs of depression or the signs that the students are doing but whether the grace or dropping where they're using the same clothes over and over and can't not talking. There are signs that they have been able to determine and now the children are being identified early on and they even tell me they can identify children as early as kindergarten. That is so important that the students have a chance to be able to be productive in healthy it's a healthy mind. It's nothing to do with being crazy. It's just your own personal way of looking things and everybody's different. So you can't say one size fits all. And if that was complicated the lemon in the eyes of some people allow me to take you to another
complicated limb of the Medicare prescription drug plan. I don't know that you have held hearings in their district but that is proving to be very very difficult for a lot of seniors to navigate their way. That is so true. The unfortunate part is that we try to. My Democrat colleagues and I try to be able to have a more substantial fear path and coverage poor our seniors. We have felt that they are putting a final drop dead date to be able to subscribe to it which is not correct. Well as it's turned out we were right. People are confused and even talk to can't even decide for what some of those programs are offering and if you sign up for the wrong program you have to wait to 2007 to be able to reapply. Which is not right. It deprives the seniors of the ability to be able to have the medications they need at the time they need and
with the right program and right now I believe they're even considering my Republican colleagues introducing legislation to drop that. Now it's already passed I don't know how they're going to do it but hopefully we'll be able to get something through a system so that you're not penalized and so that seniors may have more time to really look at it. What did you hear from seniors during the hearings you had in your district about the plan. Well it's confused and it's like well we have no idea what to do what to do it where to do it. Some of them who retired with their old plans are better off with their own plans. I have received because I am past the retirement age. My own plan information. So a lot of them had already been able to be. Correct insight is seizing up in providing for their own. But a lot of them still are not able to understand because of the language difficulty
and there's not enough translation services to that list. We try to give them in both languages so that they can be able to make that decision properly even without the language difficulty a lot of seniors can't. The plan they have for themselves is better than the plan being offered by them but the plan they have come folded that you must have been there because that is true. I haven't been there yet will be getting there soon but I've talked about a lot who have been there and you're right the word confused in this term to characterize it. If there was one thing that you would like to be able to do more effective in the Congress of the United States would. I think there's many things we would love to be able to do in this to be sure that people get more involved in their government and more aware who the candidates are in aware of the issues that are going to thank them and I know politics is dull as all get out. But if you're not participating by registering to vote in voting then you're doing yourself and your family a disservice because all of these rules
what you drive the you wind it out of gasoline prices you pay for housing the education your medical services all of that is governed by politics and you need to be able to ensure that those that you're electing are going to be on your side and vote on your site not just talk about being on your side but actually vote with you where you need it. Is that something that you emphasize particularly in the Lepanto community any community that the you know Asian African-American community of color. And why do you say Latino on the West Coast and we say Hispanic on the East Coast if they need to change about that then who wants to use what. I don't think there's a difference other than people prefer one over the other. I know that you're an honest Congresswoman Grace Napolitano but in my research I see that then you will give me the yellow get us the elitism uploaded was reasonably Ben. All of those may. Smoking up with that. Thank you very much for joining us and good luck.
Evening Exchange
Mental Health in Minorities
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WHUT (Washington, District of Columbia)
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Congresswoman Grace Napolitano talks about a range of issues regarding Hispanic Americans, including immigration and undocumented individuals, but primarily she talks about her efforts in passing legislation to promote mental health services to minorities. [This appears to be a segment of an entire episode of Evening Exchange.]
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Guest: Napolitano, Grace
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Chicago: “Evening Exchange; Mental Health in Minorities,” WHUT, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 28, 2022,
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APA: Evening Exchange; Mental Health in Minorities. Boston, MA: WHUT, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from