MAVERICK BEAT | PROJECT HIGHLIGHT
Integrating Mental Health Services into Primary Care Clinics in the Dominican Republic
As of 2016, between 30-40% of the population of the Dominican Republic (DR) needed access to mental health services. Of the entire population, young people were most impacted by mental health disorders: 32% of all suicides in the country occur among people aged 15-19.
Working alongside the Ministry of Health, this project set out to destigmatize mental health and access to mental health services for both the general public and primary health providers, and to streamline mental health services at all levels of the primary health care experience, from non-medical health workers to doctors, and equip them with the necessary knowledge to appropriately diagnose, refer, and provide follow up services as needed.
MIRNA GUILLENSenior Project Coordinator
Society for Family Health
Mirna Guillén is a clinical psychologist working at the Society for Family Health PSI Population Services International. Under the collaborative agreement with Maverick, Mirna was part of the team developing this mental health project in the Dominican Republic, where she coordinated all the logistics and methodology to be implemented in the country, as well as the fieldwork, leading to the development of the objectives of bringing primary care in mental health, in coordination with the Ministry of Public Health of the country and the National Health Service.
Martha Rodríguez is a mother and wife, with deep Christian values, and a medical doctor specializing in public health and health programs monitoring, with over 15 years of experience in the prevention and development of health programs. Since 2016, Martha has worked in mental health programs within the Ministry of Public Health in the Dominican Republic.
Martha is part of a dedicated team leading the development of national prevention policies such as the National Mental Health Plan, and the National Dementia Response Plan in the Dominican Republic, as well as the execution of the mhGAP program in primary health, among other initiatives.
Martha is currently working on a national suicide prevention plan; the Center for Mental Health Contact, Treatment and Prevention; “Help Lines”; strategies for caring for the caregivers; and the development of a plan for the national amplification of the programmatic network for mental health.
DR. MARTHA ALIXANDRA RODRIGUEZ SOTODepartment of Mental Health Ministry of Health Dominican Republic
DR. SUZANA ANNERIS GUERRERO MARTINEZDepartment of Mental Health Ministry of Health Dominican Republic
Dr. Suzana is a medical doctor with over 17 years of experience specializing in psychiatry. She was in charge of mhGAP training to equip first-level care providers with the tools necessary to be able to conduct mental health screenings of their patients during routine visits.
Dr. Suzana graduated from the Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo (INTEC, 2003), and earned her psychiatry degree from the Hospital Psiquiátrico Padre Billini (MISPAS)/ Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo (UASD, 2010). Her work and training span beyond the Domincan Republic having worked and participated in professional development programs in the US, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Spain.
Dr. Suzana has been at the helm of multiple community based projects in the Dominican Republic, including mhGAP and HERO-NY. She is a professor and researcher with the Iberoamerican Universtiy, coordinate the psychiatry residency at the Instituto Tecnólogico de Santo Domigo (INTEC) and is a coordinating physician withthe mental Health DEpartment of the Public Health Ministry.
Samantha began with PSI as an intern in 2013 with the Global Social Marketing team, and then as a Program Assistant and Associate Program Manager. Currently, she leads the Latin America and Asia portfolio for the Global Operations department, where she focuses on excellence in program management.
Samantha’s experience includes gender and gender-based violence, youth-friendly health services, and new business development, among other management priorities. She has over 10 years of experience working in the international development field, including experience as a community health specialist, HIV case manager, and research assistant.
Samantha holds a Bachelor of Science in Community Health Education and an MPH from The George Washington University.
SAMANTHA KERR, Sr. Program Manager
Latin America and the Caribbean & Asia
LINDSAY ABRAMSMaverick Collective Member
Lindsay Abrams is a Next Gen Philanthropist and mental health advocate. Since 2016, Lindsay has served as the Executive Director of the Bruce C. Abrams Foundation. In addition to her role at the foundation, Lindsay is the Sales & Outreach Manager at The Little Market, a nonprofit fair-trade shop featuring ethically sourced, artisan-made products.
Lindsay serves on the Board of Directors of Indego Africa, and on the Junior Board of NEST. She is also a member of the Young Leadership Committee at The JED Foundation.
Lindsay graduated from Vanderbilt University with a double major in Human and Organizational Development and an interdisciplinary study in literature and leadership. Following graduation, Lindsay moved to New York City, where she worked in the fashion industry at Rent the Runway and Joie. In 2019 she earned her Master’s in Social Entrepreneurship. from University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business. Lindsay is now back in NYC, enjoying Brooklyn with her fiance and petite goldendoodle, Harper.
MENTAL HEALTH IS ESSENTIAL- ESPECIALLY DURING A PANDEMIC
On March 17, 2020 the Dominican Republic began implementing social distancing measures to curb the spread of the virus. Although social interventions for mental health became more challenging than ever, SFH developed a plan to rise to the occasion.
The Mental Health Project began fielding more requests for mental healthcare through social media (specifically Facebook and Instagram), and also provided the same emotional support and counseling on WhatsApp. On all three platforms, these services were provided free of cost.
A delicious meal…
My favorite meal that we had in Santo Domingo was at a restaurant on the Boca Chica beach with our project team. The fish was so fresh and the tostones were some of the best that we had while in the country. We had tostones every day on all of our visits, as they are so addicting and delicious! During this meal, we sat at a table overlooking the water, which was such a nice change from the hustle and bustle of the city.
A memorable experience…
I really enjoyed visiting a school to see the mental health work assessments put into action and how each of the kids reacted to the instructions that they were asked to follow. I was very impressed by how each participant really did listen, engage in the conversation, and genuinely wanted to learn more about the activities that they were playing a part in. It was extremely interesting how our project team would determine which participants may be struggling with mental health issues from simple games that could be translated into meaningful next steps.
An unexpected turn…
Toward the end of our project, COVID-19 hit the Dominican Republic and showed, more than ever before, how much mental health services were needed and how much the community appreciated and utilized them. We were able to see how successful our stigma reduction campaign had been and that it did actually make a difference, as more people than ever reached out for counseling. Luckily, our solutions and methods were adaptable to a virtual context, so COVID-19 may have changed the way our project team was working, but it did not change their ability to continue to provide services and support to those in the community who needed it most.