CARE More Foundation funding helps students of color aiming to become mental health providers

21 March 2024

A big part of seeking mental health treatment is the search for understanding — something that, for some clients, can be tied to their provider’s race or ethnic background.  

“There’s relatability that comes from a certain walk of life,” said Molly Jockheck, a clinical counselor at CARE Counseling, a practice with locations around Minnesota. 

“At the height of the pandemic and when George Floyd was happening, we had a lot of clients calling in, saying, ‘We just really want a clinician of color. We don’t want to have to explain what it’s like to be a person of color,’” she said, referring to Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer and the subsequent unrest in the city.

Though Jockheck, who is ethnically Indian, does not have the same cultural background as all the patients she works with, being a person of color herself can make her clients of color feel comfortable speaking with her. 

Molly Jockheck

“I can relate on a different level than … a clinician not of color,” Jockheck said. “They can cognitively understand, but they can’t emotionally relate in the sense that some clients would find more comforting or more relatable.” 

Finding a mental health provider of color in Minnesota can be a difficult task, however — especially when a client is looking for a provider who is racially or ethnically similar to them. 

According to a 2022 document from the Minnesota Department of Health’s Office of Rural Health and Primary Care, only 2.8% of mental health providers were African or African American despite this group making up 7% of Minnesota’s total population. This discrepancy — where the percentage of providers of a racial/ethnic group in Minnesota was lower than the percentage of people belonging to that group — was also present for people of Asian, Hispanic/Latino, and Native American descent. 

The only instances in which the provider percentage of the population was higher than the racial and/or ethnic group’s percentage was in the case of white people, people of multiple races and people who identified their race as “other.” Notably, white providers made up 88% of Minnesota’s total provider population in 2022.

The document also showed that mental health providers of color in Minnesota were more likely than white providers to work with certain populations of underserved clients, such as people requiring interpreters, people with disabilities and low-income patients or patients without insurance. Most notably, providers of color in Minnesota were more likely to see other members of racial and ethnic minorities than white mental health providers were.  

More demand than supply

CARE Counseling Chief Executive Andrea Hutchinson and Chief Operating Officer Josh Hutchinson, Jockheck said, saw “a gap in our field” in 2020, where there was increased demand for providers of color, but a limited number of providers of color. Observing this gap led to the founding of the CARE More Foundation, which then identified barriers preventing people of color from becoming mental health professionals. 

One identified barrier, said Jockheck, was the educational cost of becoming a provider. 

“So CARE More set out to do one specific, yet tangible goal — to help pay for books for emerging clinicians of color,” Jockheck explained. 

Though the foundation began with an endowment that provides funds to graduate and doctoral students at the University of St. Thomas, it also, according to Jockheck, raises funds for graduate students of color at St. Could State University who are preparing to enter the mental health care field.

Jensi Ocampo Sorto, a St. Cloud State student who received funding from CARE More in 2022, said scholarships are “imperative” when it comes to how she pays for her education. 

Due to her Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, status, Ocampo Sorto wasn’t able to qualify for federal financial aid or loans. The money from CARE More, along with other scholarships, has allowed her, she said, “to focus on my education, instead of constantly having to worry about working and how I was gonna pay for tuition and the escalating cost of books.”

Currently, Ocampo Sorto is working at CARE Counseling as a clinical trainee, where — by assisting people with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues — she is gaining experience needed to graduate from her program. 

Jensi Ocampo Sorto

“I truly appreciate what CARE More has to offer because it has that emphasis on the BIPOC community,” Ocampo Sorto said. “One of the ways that we can help tackle (the stigma against mental health care in communities of color) is by making sure that there are more people of color in the field, so that people in society or the community can feel like they’re represented.” 

She added: “Being (a) low income, first generation Latina college student who experienced a lot of barriers to my education … many organizations don’t see the struggle of having to be successful. That’s part of the reason why I really appreciate CARE More’s impact and CARE More’s significance on my education.”

Deanna Pistono

Deanna Pistono is MinnPost’s Race & Health Equity fellow. Follow her on Twitter @deannapistono or email her at [email protected].

The post CARE More Foundation funding helps students of color aiming to become mental health providers appeared first on MinnPost.

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