Farm Aid's mental health hotline for ag workers is now available in Spanish
The nonprofit Farm Aid is collaborating with the Migrant Clinicians Network to offer mental health hotline services in Spanish to farmers and farmworkers across the country, including Vermont.
Lori Mercer is one of the English-language hotline operators, and she says a Spanish-language hotline operator is now available Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. eastern time.
“And folks who want to reach out to us would call us at 1-800-FARM-AID, or 1-800-327-6243,” Mercer said. “And at that point, you decide if you want to speak with someone who speaks English or Spanish, and get routed accordingly. “
Mercer says Farm Aid can connect farmers and farmworkers with local resources, and outreach is always confidential.
“It's very hard to make that call sometimes,” she said. “And I guess I would just really encourage folks to reach out regardless of — of whatever you think the severity is of your situation, it doesn't have to be crisis-level for you to call us. And many people call just to talk, just to process, just to be heard and seen.”
“It's very hard to make that call sometimes... And I guess I would just really encourage folks to reach out regardless of — of whatever you think the severity is of your situation, it doesn't have to be crisis-level for you to call us. And many people call just to talk, just to process, just to be heard and seen.”Lori Mercer, Farm Aid
The service has been available for the past few months. Mercer says her Spanish-language colleague has already received a number of calls.
“Certainly, you know, the long hours, the low pay, the lack of rights in many of the situations that farmworkers find themselves, are big issues,” she said.
In Vermont, for example, the advocacy program Migrant Justice has documented immigrant farmworkers working without any days off, receiving below minimum wage and living in cramped, unsafe and unsanitary housing.
Mercer says farmworkers have called the Farm Aid hotline asking about housing, language lessons and other social services, and that the nonprofit is learning where to direct people for help.
Farm Aid also recently translated a number of online resources into Spanish.
According to Mercer, funding from the 2018 Farm Bill has allowed Farm Aid to expand its overall mental health hotline services, including this new Spanish-language operator. She says Farm Aid hopes to have those funds renewed in the 2023 Farm Bill.
As for why Farm Aid has made this change now, Mercer says there’s more recognition of historic discrimination and racism baked into U.S. policies, and the impacts on agricultural workers who are Black, Indigenous and people of color – including Latino farmers and farmworkers.
“Now there is some concerted effort to try to rectify that, including at the government level with the USDA,” Mercer said. “And with all that unfolding, you know, necessarily, we just want to really make sure that language isn't a barrier to folks getting that information.”
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