'Bombarded': Hispanic arts, mental health groups pivot to help community in COVID-19

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Organizations across Philadelphia are using Hispanic Heritage Month to highlight community work they do year-round, and how they've refocused their mission during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Taller Puertorriqueno, located on 5th Street in North Philadelphia, uses art to promote development within its community and the Latin Diaspora.

But like many other businesses, they were forced to close their doors during the lockdown phase of the pandemic and moved to online programming before eventually reopening.

"We did limited summer programming with 20 or 25 kids," said Dr. Carmen Febo San Miguel, the executive director of Taller Puertorriqueno. "By September, we were doing modified exhibition openings utilizing our outside space."

Dr. Febo-San Miguel said although they focus on teaching and education through the arts, they made sure kids in the community could use them for full educational growth.

"We were converted into an access center where we provided support to a cohort of kids during the day, so they could attend school — which at that moment was completely virtual — online," she added.

Febo-San Miguel said during Hispanic Heritage Month they've had and will continue to have special in-person programing to let the community to they're open and ready to serve.

"The arts are so essential [with] the work that we do, and everybody who has participated in our programs whether virtual or in-person has been very, very much appreciative," said Febo-San Miguel.

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Hispanic counseling group 'bombarded' with patients in need during pandemic

Hispanic Community Counseling Services, in Philadelphia's Harrowgate neighborhood, has seen a sharp uptick of people needing to utilize services throughout the pandemic, according to CEO Hector Ayala.

He said their outpatient mental health clinic is needed now more than ever.

"We have been bombarded with new patients, and this has delayed access to psychiatric services; in this case, people waiting for medications and things of that nature," Ayala said.

He explained they have used the pandemic as a way to better connect with their clientele, who are both young and old.

"One of our clinicians created a book for parents, for children, how to deal with COVID-19. How to get ready, and how to inform children about what COVID-19 is and what they can do to prevent it," Ayala added.

He said they're using Hispanic Heritage Month to promote a resource they've added to their arsenal, to better help them work with mental health during the pandemic.

"We have created a crisis line in which we are providing hundreds of hours of pro bono services," said Ayala.

"These are for individuals with no medical insurance or the inability to pay for medical services."

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