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Dr. Amaro Laria

Media Advisory/Press Release

Latino Psychologist Appointed to Mental Health Post in Commonwealth

December 15 , 2008 –Boston (West Roxbury), MA—Amaro Laria, PhD, Director of the Lucero Latino Mental Health Training Program at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology in West Roxbury, MA, was appointed today to the Massachusetts Health Disparities Council by Massachusetts Senate President, Therese Murray and Senator Susan Fargo, Chairman of the Health Disparities Council.

Dr. Laria is the only mental health expert to be named to the Council, which was established by the Health Care Reform Act of 2006 to develop recommendations for reducing and eliminating racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare access and outcomes within the Commonwealth. Massachusetts is one of only two states in the country to develop such a program.

In his new role on the Massachusetts Health Disparities Council, Dr. Laria extends his outreach beyond correcting mental health disparities in the Latino population to include all ethnic communities.

Initially focusing on disparities relating to diseases including cancer, stroke, heart disease, diabetes and HIV/Aids, the Council’s appointment of Dr. Laria as its first representative named to address the crucial needs of mental health disparities within underserved populations in the Commonwealth, is a key acknowledgement of the deficiencies existing in providing better access to mental health treatment.

According to Senator Susan Fargo, who was recently named the new Chairman of the Health Disparities Council: “I am pleased to be appointed as the Senate Chairman of the Health Disparities Council. Identifying and then breaking the barriers that separate us from good health is essential. We need to continue to build on the foundation that has been established in recent years and I am encouraged by the high caliber membership of the Council and welcome Dr Laria's expertise and contributions in the areas of mental health.”

A 2002 report of the Surgeon General’s office, called “Mental Health: Culture Race and Ethnicity,” concluded that despite the similar overall prevalence of 22 percent of mental illness in the general population, minority groups in the United States are disproportionately represented among the poor, incarcerated, homeless and victims of violence, which have the most measurable impact on the incidence of mental illness. They are far less likely than whites to use mental health services and face a social and economic environment of inequality in care that includes racism and stereotyping; substandard care, including the withholding of state-of-the-art medicines and therapies; fragmentation of services; and providers who can neither speak their language nor understand the cultural context of their distress.

Highly experienced in providing mental health treatment to Latino populations and knowing the critical need for mental health providers to speak the Spanish language and understand the various Latino cultures, Dr. Laria launched a new training program at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology in September of 2005, designed to train Latino and non-Latino psychologists to care for these underserved populations.

“I feel incredibly honored and privileged to be chosen to work on the Council; it is a great fit for what I have been doing,” says Dr. Laria.

A clinical psychologist and faculty member of the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology, Dr. Laria also holds a faculty appointment in the Department of Psychiatry and the Department of Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He is a resident of Acton, Massachusetts.

Updated 12/15/08

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