Friday, March 4, 2022

By Letty Fernandez

McALLEN, TEXAS – The UTRGV School of Social Work is cohosting a special conference – “Latino Behavioral Health Disparities in the COVID-19 Era: Strengthening Our Communities as We Move Forward” – from March 7-8. 

Dr. Luis Torres-Hostos, Ph.D., founding dean and professor, UTRGV School of Social Work, said the conference will discuss lessons learned from service providers and healthcare systems treating Latinos with mental health disorders during the pandemic.

The conference will be from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Embassy Suites Convention Center, 800 Convention Center Blvd., in McAllen.

Luis Torres
Dr. Luis Torres-Hostos, Ph.D., founding dean and professor, UTRGV School of Social Work. (Courtesy Photo)

Presentations will address culturally responsive interventions and strategies to consider when providing mental health services for Latino communities – including utilizing telehealth as a novel intervention that increases access to mental health services and that is likely to remain after the pandemic.

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on Latino communities in ways that go beyond health. The pandemic, along with protective and restrictive measures that have been put in place, have changed the lives of Latinos, and have resulted in profound losses, including the loss of loved ones, employment, homes and cultural traditions.

Recent data indicate that Latinos are 1.3 times more likely than White non-Hispanics to become infected from COVID-19, 3.1 times more likely to be hospitalized and 2.3 times more likely to die from COVID-19 (statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021).

The increased burden, stressors and vulnerability has had an especially profound impact on mental health in Latino families and communities.

The conference is a joint effort between the UTRGV School of Social Work, the National Hispanic and Latino Mental Health Technology Transfer Center, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

For more information about the conference, contact Torres-Hostos at (956) 665-3575 or email him at

Conference Booklet


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.