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Spanish Grief Support Services Developed During COVID-19 Hospice Giving Foundation and Hospital Foundation Fund Program

Spanish Grief Support Services Developed During COVID-19 Hospice Giving Foundation and Hospital Foundation Fund Program

Media Contact: Karina Rusk

A program created with generous funding from the Hospice Giving Foundation and Salinas Valley Health Foundation is having a profound impact on Spanish speaking families in need of grief support services during COVID-19. The program was developed and implemented at Salinas Valley Health to provide comfort to families impacted by the deadly virus.

The Spanish grief support services are offered to grieving monolingual families of COVID-19 positive patients who were cared for at Salinas Valley Health Medical Center. Hospice Giving Foundation provided the original grant funding of $28,500 to Salinas Valley Health Foundation. The Medical Center Foundation Board of Governors then matched the grant amount to extend the program from six months to a full year.

“Hospice Giving Foundation has been a great partner in supporting valuable services to our community,” says Jeff Wardwell, Salinas Valley Health Chief Philanthropy Officer and CEO of the Salinas Valley Health Foundation. “Sadly, with COVID-19, the need for Spanish language grief counseling became abundantly clear. We are very grateful for this important grant and to our Board for recognizing the urgency,”

The idea for this unique program was developed during the pandemic as nurses, physicians and other caregivers identified the emotional challenges that some of patient families were facing. Safety precautions restrict visitors to the COVID-19 units and many families lost loved ones without the opportunity to be at the bedside. Salinas Valley Health Social Worker Kim DeSerpa knew there was a critical need for grief and bereavement services specifically designed for Spanish-only families.

In early 2021 Salinas Valley Health social workers attended a training with Grief Counselor Silvia Austerlic and soon after began contacting monolingual Spanish speaking families who had experienced a loss due to COVID-19. The formal grief support program was initiated in February 2021 and offers cultural sensitive grief counseling, as often as every week. In the first month alone, 14 families were referred to this unique program to receive support.

“I hoped by offering quality grief counseling to our monolingual Spanish speaking families, we could honor not only our patient and families’ lives, but honor our staff and providers as well,” says Kim DeSerpa, Salinas Valley Health lead clinical social worker. “Our goal was simple - honor the victims of COVID-19 by serving the survivor.”

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