A portrait of Rocío Calvo

Rocío Calvo. Photo by Lee Pellegrini for BC News.

Rocío Calvo, the assistant dean for equity, justice, and inclusion in the Boston College School of Social Work, has been appointed to the Massachusetts Behavioral Health Advisory Commission by outgoing Gov. Charlie Baker.

Calvo received a letter from Baker on November 3 confirming her appointment to the Commission, which the Massachusetts House and Senate passed into law in May.  

Over the next several months, the commissioners will work to address barriers to the delivery of equitable, culturally competent, and clinically-appropriate behavioral healthcare. 

Their focus includes identifying and assessing the challenges facing the behavioral health workforce; examining the feasibility of increasing the behavioral health competency of mental health workers through training programs; and analyzing the factors that create or perpetuate disparities in healthcare.

Based on their findings, the commissioners will recommend how money in a newly established trust fund for behavioral healthcare will get distributed. Their recommendations will prioritize the needs of communities that were disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There is an acute need for culturally and linguistically appropriate behavioral healthcare in Massachusetts,” said Calvo, an associate professor whose research focuses on the role that social services play in integrating immigrants into American society. “I’m so appreciative of the Massachusetts leadership for responding so decisively and with such intention to these issues.” 

Calvo is one of only two members of the 20-member Commission that Baker selected himself. She said the role aligns with her longstanding commitment to improving access to culturally and linguistically appropriate services for Latinx communities.

Calvo founded the Latinx Leadership Initiative in 2013, designing a cohort-based program that has prepared more than 200 bilingual and bicultural social workers to accompany Latinx communities in developing sustainable solutions to complex problems in health, education, housing, and other areas. Students in the program take courses in Spanish, complete internships in schools, hospitals, and prisons, and conduct cutting-edge research that shapes social workers’ strategies to support Latinx clients.

“We are so appreciative of Commissioner Rocío Calvo for participating in the Behavioral Health Advisory Commission and will greatly benefit from her expertise,” said Julian Cyr, a co-chair of the committee who represents Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket in the Massachusetts Senate. “Her background and knowledge in social work, immigrant and Latino communities, and beyond will ensure the Commission’s approach is informed and inclusive in its decision-making.”

There is an acute need for culturally and linguistically appropriate behavioral healthcare in Massachusetts. I’m so appreciative of the Massachusetts leadership for responding so decisively and with such intention to these issues.
Rocío Calvo, founding director of the Latinx Leadership Initiative

Backed by funding from Boston Children’s Hospital, the Mass General Brigham healthcare system, and the National Institutes of Health, Calvo is currently working on three community-based projects aimed at improving the physical and mental well-being of Latinx communities in Massachusetts.

  • Calvo, Donahue and DiFelice Endowed Chair Kirsten Davison, and their colleagues at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health are spearheading a new effort to address a lag in vaccination rates among Latinx populations. The team, supported by a five-year, $2.8 million grant from NIH, will test a culturally and linguistically appropriate intervention for reducing vaccine hesitancy among Latinx patients at the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center. The intervention, according to BC News, will involve motivational interviewing, in which clinicians at the center will use discrete, accommodating language to discuss patients’ vaccination status, views, and concerns.

  • Calvo, assistant professor Tyrone M. Parchment, and their colleagues have teamed up with Boston Public Schools to address disparities in mental healthcare for Black and Latinx children and families. A two-year, $500,000 grant from Boston Children’s Hospital will support the development of an initiative in which experienced Black and Latinx social workers at BPS will provide supervision and coaching to newly minted Black and Latinx social workers in an effort to bolster their professional skills. According to BC News, both groups of social workers will also receive supervision training at BCSSW.

  • Last November, Calvo received a $600,000 grant from the Mass General Brigham healthcare system to develop the workforce of bilingual and bicultural social workers in Massachusetts. Four LLI students have already completed the program, which, BC News reports, provides stipends and professional development to fellows as they work in community health settings that predominantly serve Latinx communities. Going forward, the LLI and Mass General Brigham will select at least 10 fellows each academic year.

In addition to Calvo, other members of the Behavioral Health Advisory Commission include representatives from the Massachusetts chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health, and the Massachusetts Association of Behavioral Health Systems. Appointees participated in a virtual meeting last week.