Meet the new director of UCLA’s Spanish-speaking mental health clinic

Open since 1977, the clinic provides a full range of psychiatric diagnostic services, treatments and resources
A woman posing against a pink background
Erica Lubliner, MD, is director of the UCLA Health Spanish-speaking Psychosocial Clinic.

Erica Lubliner, MD, double board-certified psychiatrist, takes the reins as the third director of the UCLA Health Spanish-speaking Psychosocial Clinic.

The interdisciplinary clinic, open since 1977, provides a full range of psychiatric diagnostic services, treatments, and resources for a rapidly growing and underserved Latino/x community. The team is comprised of attendings and trainees from psychiatry, psychology and social work.

“Our mission is to care for all Latino/x patients that are monolingual or bilingual – whether you come from different countries of origin, or have varying educational and occupational backgrounds, we’re here for you,” says Dr. Lubliner. “Our plan is to offer the most comprehensive mental health care with pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy. We also plan to add a more extensive behavioral intervention program next year, called ‘Adelante’ (Spanish for forward), that considers our culture, values, and language.”

Dr. Lubliner has many goals to grow the program, expand funding, and increase opportunities for the interdisciplinary bilingual and bicultural trainees.

“First we need to build upon our strong foundation in clinical practice, so we can better meet the needs of our community,” she says.

Growing population and need

There are more than 4.8 million Latinos in Los Angeles County, making up 49.1% of the population – and growing. About 81% of Latino/x adults who are Spanish language dominant, prefer health care providers who speak Spanish – making the Spanish-speaking Psychosocial Clinic a much-needed mental health resource for Latinos in Los Angeles, says Dr. Lubliner.

The COVID-19 pandemic was particularly challenging for Latinos, who according to a study from the UCLA Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture, were six times more likely than non-Latinos to die from the disease.

“The ramification of those human losses, including many elders, has had a very lasting impact on mental health of Latinos,” she says. “Not to mention immigration policy, family separation, and the trauma of detention centers, from the negative political discourse during that period.”

To compound this issue, there are shortages of mental health providers, particularly those that are Spanish-speaking.

“The current mental health system does not know how to meet the needs of Latinos and I want people to know that the Spanish-speaking Psychosocial Clinic can help with that,” Dr. Lubliner says.

“We’re slowly expanding to accommodate the Latino patients already in the UCLA Health Care System, that are being seen for other conditions. Though we currently have a small team, our goal is to double and even triple staff by next year.”

Improving access

Dr. Lubliner is working to find funding for the clinic, by demonstrating the richness of the program.

“We’re looking to grow our Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) group, which is called ‘La Platica,’ (Spanish for ‘talk or conversation’).

“We are unique in that we provide interdisciplinary training that is both culturally and linguistically concordant,” she says. “We’re staffed by culturally humble, bilingual mental health professionals that have lots of knowledge about Latino/x culture and issues related to immigration, acculturation, ethnicity, class, socioeconomic status, language, traditions, cultural practices, and beliefs.”

Dr. Lubliner says growing up interpreting for family and neighbors in a low-income area drove her passion to improve the access and the experiences Latinos have when interfacing with institutions – especially in medical settings.

“As a medical student, I loved seeing the wave of relief among the Spanish-speaking patients when I walked into the room and began talking to them in Spanish,” she recalls. “It was like a whole layer of calm encompassed them and they could better focus on their health and not on their ability to communicate.”

The newest SSPC Director says she believes it is her duty to give back to her community by training the next generation of Spanish-speaking mental health professionals and she’s picked UCLA Health – the community that has educated and trained her to become a physician – as her partner in change.

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