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La Clinica Sits Down with Their new Integrated Behavioral Health Clinician

Since 1949, May has been observed as Mental Health Awareness Month. By providing support and outreach materials to better help fight stigma, and educate the public, we can better advocate for policies that help support people with mental health illness and their families, all year long.

Stefany Menjivar, AMFT, Integrated Behavioral Health Clinician

La Clinica recently sat down with one of their newest hire, Stefany Menjivar, AMFT, Integrated Behavioral Health Clinician to learn more about her thoughts on Integrated Behavioral Health at the community health center level.

Tell Us a little bit about yourself.

I am an Integrated Behavioral Health Clinician I at La Clinica Alta Vista. I am an Oakland Native that attended St. Mary’s for undergrad and Holy Names University for graduate school. I received my master’s degree in forensic and Counseling Psychology and I interned at Alameda County Juvenile Hall and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital CVC program. Interning at these sites I was able to learn and gain a wealth of knowledge of mental health. When I was younger, I did not have access to resources for mental health and now I have a therapist that I am very appreciative.

What motivated you to become a behavioral health specialist?

As I was growing up in Oakland, I always wondered why there were inequalities in accessing resources in our community. As I interned at Juvenile Hall as a case manager, I realized I wanted to work with youth who have gone through the criminal justice system and help reduce or remove this revolving door process. For me to fully understand where the journey incarcerated youth have endured, I needed to listen to their stories and help validate them and then to provide the tools they can utilize to reduce distress, complex PTSD, and to help increase interpersonal skills.

How does working in a community health center setting set your work apart from others in your field?

I am working in a community health center designed for teens that helps provide them access to all types of resources. My works sets me apart in the sense that I am mindful of all psychosocial stressors and integrate medical providers. Working with adolescents in a community health center I am at an advantage because in some shape or form I can relate to their life stressors and life experiences.

During the past two years, we saw a significant increase in need for mental health services. What were some of the challenges or barriers you experienced in addressing this increase in need?

During the pandemic we saw a higher need for behavioral health care but there were limitations in providing this service. One barrier was access to the  internet.  As we transitioned to online telehealth many families did not have internet at their home limiting the access to receive mental health services. Along with challenges with internet some families did not have the equipment like iPads or computers to use for their session. As we maneuvered through pts accessing services via internet or telephone call, we needed to consider privacy, attention span, and network reliability to have a successful session.

In an ideal world, what does the future of integrated behavioral health care look like?

My hope for integrated behavioral health is that it’s present in every clinic and available to every patient. My hope is that behavioral health will be covered in the same way that physical health is – it’s hard when patients cancel their appointments for fear of getting billed because insurance coverage is so confusing.

Learn more about La Clinica HERE.