Until There’s a Cure…
San Antonio AIDS Foundation Hires Second Mental Health Counselor
Organization Developing Array of Mental Health Services
SAN ANTONIO – The first full week of October is Mental Illness Awareness Week. This is an issue that has a special impact on people living with HIV/AIDS – according to a study published by the American Psychological Association, as much as 24 percent of people living with HIV are at risk of developing mental health issues, like depression and anxiety. In keeping with its tradition of advocating for the overall health of its clients, the San Antonio AIDS Foundation (SAAF) is addressing this concern with an array of new mental health services, beginning with the appointment two new mental health counselors – the organization’s first.
“A large percentage of our clients experience depression, and a lot of our new clients are recently-diagnosed, putting them at a greater risk for developing mental health issues,” said SAAF’s Vice President of Client Services Jose Cervantes. “It can be a struggle for clients to deal with their diagnosis while addressing their mental health issues. By offering mental health services at our Grayson facility, clients are more likely to show up for their mental health therapy, because it’s offered at a place they’re familiar with.”
In July, SAAF hired licensed counselor Francisco J. Ramirez as the organization’s first-ever mental health counselor. Shortly thereafter, licensed counselor Jennifer Harris joined SAAF as an addition to the already-growing mental health team. These hires are SAAF’s first steps in addressing the mental health concerns of SAAF clients.
Together, Ramirez and Harris will assist clients with a variety of needs, including individual therapy, crisis counseling, and treatment plans for managing their diagnosis and related issues, such as substance abuse. This is especially important, as the American Psychological Association reports that HIV-positive people are more likely to develop substance abuse issues, which can in turn lead to suicidal ideations, highlighting the importance of crisis intervention.
SAAF is also in the process of adding other services to benefit its diverse clientele – such as an on-site outpatient clinic, which will open to the public before the end of the year. These services are part of SAAF’s commitment to providing a continuum of care to people living with HIV.
“Many people think that treating HIV is as simple as taking a pill to treat the disease itself, but there are a number of other concerns, such as mental health or substance abuse issues, that should be addressed to ensure the HIV treatment is as successful as possible,” Cervantes said. “SAAF has always been dedicated to addressing these underlying needs and our new mental health services are a great example of our commitment to the overall health of our clients.”
For more information about SAAF services, contact SAAF’s communications department at 210-225-4715, ext. 141, or info@SanAntonioAIDS.org.