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Denver organization helps mothers find mental health resources

Most families who use Lifespan Local's services are new to the United States, and many come from immigrant or refugee backgrounds.

DENVER, Colorado — While new mothers experience parenthood for the first time, one organization makes sure to prioritize resources for mothers and their children.

Lifespan Local has a maternal mental health resource for mothers in Westwood, a neighborhood in Southwest Denver that is home to a number of Hispanic/Latino, Middle Eastern, Vietnamese and Native American families.  

Lifespan Local began its Alma program to assist families and celebrate diversity. The program offers home visits with mothers or caregivers with children up to the age of 3. Services are offered in families' native language, including in English, Spanish, Arabic and Vietnamese.

Gabby Heinrichs Barraza has two children and utilizes services in Spanish. She travels to Westwood for the community she's found as part of Alma, as well as to talk through things with peer companions who are part of the maternal mental health service.

"All the people here are really nice, very nice," Barraza said in Spanish. "They are very welcoming. You feel like you’ve known them for a long time because they treat you very well, and so you feel a lot of confidence from day one."

She has brought each of her two children to "Alma Kids," which is an opportunity for mothers to meet up and do activities with their children. She also participates in the service that includes home visits, which she usually prefers to do at La Casita Blanca, a little white house that the Alma program operates out of in Westwood.

The sessions offered to mothers focus on identifying or creating connections with family, friends and community resources. During one of Barraza's sessions, they worked on a "circle of connection" to visualize how many people are part of her support system.

"I feel like it helped me remember that I am not alone here, even though it’s a different country that I lived and grew up," said Barraza, who works hand-in-hand with a peer mentor during her sessions. "You leave people there, but you also make new ones here. They become part of your close people, in your circle of connection."

Adriana Rubiano is one of the peer mentors that is helping Barraza and other mothers navigate parenthood. 

"For me, it's very important to be able to be part of the support for the community, and I say Hispanic, but it's an immigrant [community], where we can contribute a grain of sand with part of what we know, part of what we are, because we are all multicultural in this country," Rubiano said.

The program is based in Westwood, but you don't need to live in the neighborhood to access the services. Mothers from all areas and neighborhoods are welcome.

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