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Treasure Valley organizations making health information and resources accessible for all Idahoans

The Idaho Immunization Coalition and the Hispanic Cultural Center teamed up to bring different healthcare providers and services together Sunday.

NAMPA, Idaho — The Idaho Immunization Coalition (IIC) and the Hispanic Cultural Center of Idaho teamed up to host a health fair for all Idahoans Sunday afternoon. The groups provided COVID-19 and flu immunizations, health screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose, vision, mental health resources, and more. 

To help make sure language was not a barrier, much of the staff and healthcare workers present were bilingual.

"Having a face-to-face conversation with someone really makes a difference in their ability to feel comfortable with the information that they're receiving," said Heather Gagliano, the education and operations director for IIC. "We're able to provide them with factual information that is available in both English and Spanish."

"We have a few students that are bilingual and speak Spanish so we're utilizing those students to deliver information and also translate for our other students as well," said Idaho State University College of Pharmacy Associate Professor Dr. Kevin Cleveland. 

While the IIC's "Passport to Health" fair helped provide different services to people this weekend, the Hispanic Cultural Center tries to be a "one-stop shop" for members of the community every day.

"If we don't have the answer, we find the answer for them or we get them to the person that they need to get to in order to find that answer," said Desiree Lopez, the administrator for the Center. "Having a lot of bilingual staff helps a lot."

Lopez said the Center is able to help community members whether they're looking for legal help, family services and health-related services like counseling and holistic wellness.

"I think mental health, in general, is part of the integral health in any human being," said Dr. Maria Alvarado. "In the Latino community, we have specific issues because parents need to work so many hours away from the home and the dynamic is very unique. I think more and more Latinos notice the importance of mental health and are looking for providers."

Alvarado is a licensed clinical counselor whose office is on the second floor of the Center. She is originally from Mexico but came to the United States when she was 35 years old. She said when she first moved to Idaho she did not see many people that looked like her. 

Now, Alvardo said she enjoys working with others who may come from a similar background, such as if they speak Spanish or are an immigrant themselves because she feels she can relate to them. She said having that connection can make appointments less intimidating for community members.

"I know how it feels to leave everything behind, so in that way, it makes us closer and made me understand better," Alvardo said.

Thelma Lopez-Barajas, the CEO and owner of Nuestra Gente Wellness which is also located in the Center, echoed the importance of having someone to who people can relate to in healthcare. She said oftentimes people not from the US are unfamiliar with the country's healthcare system.

"It can be very frustrating," Lopez-Barajas said. "I think people in general when you walk into a doctor's office you get nervous and you're not feeling good, you often forget to ask certain things. Then imagine that you're throwing on an additional challenge of, 'I don't know how this system works and on top of that my English is limited.'

Lopez-Barajas also trains interpreters for healthcare systems like St. Luke's Health and Saint Alphonsus. She also incorporates interpreters into her wellness center which she believes puts people not originally from the US at ease. 

"When they come here and if they need an interpreter, 'We got you, we're here for you, let's make you feel comfortable,'" Lopez-Barajas said.

The center is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is located at 315 Stampede Dr. in Nampa. 

For information about services at the Hispanic Cultural Center call (208) 442-0823 or click HERE. Their services are open to everyone.

For ways to contact and set up an appointment with Alvarado, email: mariascounseling@gmail.com 

For ways to contact and set up an appointment with Lopez-Barajas, email: nuestragentewellness@gmail.com

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