A state program to help Latinos battle mental health and substance abuse problems has received national recognition.
The concept for Proyecto Nueva Vida or Project New Life came from Jose Ortiz, Director for Multicultural Affairs at the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. He calls it a culturally specific treatment program because staff focuses on Latinos who are dealing with addiction.
"One of the constraints is there's shame of course.But the other thing is that Latinos for the most part will first go to their family and then go to the extended family and then go to their minister or indigenous healer, seeking help for them instead of going to a treatment center."
Back in 2000, the program received a five year, $2.5 million dollar federal grant to help the Latino population in Bridgeport which saw a disproportionate number of heroin abusers. Ortiz says in the first year, the program got more than 16-hundred new admissions for treatment.
The program has continued to this day with support from the state and has expanded to New Haven. And its success led Project New Life to be named one of six top programs in the U.S. for mental health and addiction services for Latinos. It was recognized by the National Latino Behavioral Association and the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.