Older Adult Mental Health – EMASS

Elder Multicultural Access and Support Services (EMASS)
Outpatient Services

Services are designed to address mental health issues, provide prevention activities and increase access to mental health care.  UPAC EMASS Community Centers are located in Escondido and El Cajon.  The goal is to strengthen seniors’ capacity to remain independent and improve the quality of their lives.  Bi-weekly social and recreational activities following Dr. Paul Nussbaum’s Brain Health lifestyle such as physical exercise, mental stimulation exercise, socialization, nutrition, and spirituality.  These include:

  • Nutrition Cooking ClassEMASS dual picture for website 9-3-13
  • Tai-Chi Classes
  • Bingo, Loteria & Dominos
  • Video Karaoke
  • Relaxation & Meditation Exercise
  • Brain Fitness Exercises
  • Senior Fitness Exercises
  • Computer & Technology Classes
  • Expressive Arts
  • Knitting, Crochet & Jewelry Making- EMASS Arts & Crafts Samples

EMASS Dance Studio News

The UPAC EMASS program uses community health workers known as “promotores” to provide culturally competent mental health education and services to elderly racial and ethnic minorities in San Diego County. Working with clients of similar racial and ethnic backgrounds and often of a similar age, promotores offer:

  • Group Classes covering Recreation and Exercise
  • Healthy Aging and Mental Health Education
  • One-on-One Counseling and Support
  • Referral to Language-Concordant Mental Health Providers
  • Transportation to, and Translation Services at appointments with Medical and Mental Health Providers.


The program serves 60+ African Americans, multicultural xmas at emass, el cajonFilipinos, Somalis, Chaldeans, and Latinos.  Promotores from these groups use different strategies to identify individuals who might benefit from the program.

For example, the Latino promotores often go to apartment complexes, swap meets, and churches frequented by their peers. The Filipino promotores attend functions for seniors held by a local Filipino-American cultural group and regularly visits Filipino restaurants, shops, and apartment complexes. The African-American promotores recruits clients primarily from functions held by churches in the African-American community (e.g., women’s group meetings), and the Somali promotores visits apartment complexes and mosques frequented by elderly Somalis.

Culturally competent promotores:
Promotores are from the same ethnic and racial background as their clients, and most promotores are 55 or older and hence can relate to the issues facing older individuals. Most promotores also have personal experience helping a close relative with mental health issues.

Initial enrollment:
Promotores develop a rapport with older adults they meet through various outreach activities. To build trusting relationships, promotores help clients with pressing issues or concerns they may have (such as the lack of health insurance or safe housing or a path to citizenship) before introducing mental health awareness and education services. Promotores also encourage clients to attend EMASS activities or allow home visits.

Culturally tailored education and counseling:
Promotores deliver culturally tailored education and peer counseling designed to improve physical and mental health and mental health literacy to reduce the stigma associated with accessing mental health services.  As detailed below, key services include group classes and one-on-one peer counseling and support targeted at each group served.

dancing at EMASS Latino WomenLatino community:
Twice each week, Senior Nutrition Program provides congregate meals and promotores lead recreational classes at an EMASS community center in Escondido, CA, which has a large Latino population. These classes are designed to reduce clients’ social isolation and improve their emotional well-being by engaging them in activities such as music, dance, and relaxation exercises.  Trained as peer facilitators, the Latino promotores also teach in Spanish Chronic Disease Self-Management workshop and a 1-hour class (known as Good Mental Health Is Ageless) on the signs of depression and coping skills. Both programs are taught in conjunction with Aging and Independence Services, a San Diego County agency. The promotores also meet one-on-one with clients to offer peer counseling and support. They generally split their time evenly between group activities and one-on-one meetings.

Filipino community:   Spanish Computer Class
The Filipino promotora provides one-on-one mental-health education, peer support, and counseling to seniors.   Clients also join the recreational activities and educational classes held at the EMASS community center in Escondido.  Chronic Disease Self-Management Program and Good Mental Health Is Ageless classes are available.  Clients were also assisted in applying for Cal Fresh and MediCal.

African-American and Somali communities:   somali
The promotores serving African Americans and Somalis generally provide peer support and education on a one-to-one basis in clients’ homes. In the case of Somali clients, the promotores help family members; they also teach the Chronic Disease Self-Management and Good Mental Health Is Ageless classes at community rooms located at either apartment complexes or Somali Family Service of San Diego.  Promotores also aid in translation assistance as well as arranging for appointments and transportation.

Chaldean & Middle Eastern community:  Promotores provide one-on-one peer support at the EMASS Iraqui xmas scenecommunity center in El Cajon, a city in San Diego County where many Chaldeans live. They also host regular social activities, including craft classes for women and table games (e.g., Arabic board games, dominos, and cards) for men. Representatives from Laubach Literary Council of San Diego, an all-volunteer group, and Project SHINE at Cuyamaca College in El Cajon also teach weekly health literacy classes at the center. These activities draw many elderly Chaldeans and hence also function as a way to identify potential new enrollees to the program. Consequently, Chaldean promotores generally do not engage in much outreach work in the community. The promotores teach a workshop on adjusting to life in the United States in addition to Good Mental Health Is Ageless.

Click here to view the EMASS Video 2014: 
EMASS, East Wind & Sr. Nutrition Highlight Video

For Additional InformationEMASS brochure-English-8-2013

EMASS Newsletters: 

EMASS June 2015 Newsletter
May 2014 Newsletter
EMASS March 2013 Newsletter

EMASS pic #2 9-3-13EMASS is a recipient of the 2012 Public Health Champion Award, Aging and Independence Services in recognition of extraordinary achievement in protecting and promoting the health of residents of San Diego County and the National Association of Counties 2012 Achievement Award.

Funded by County of San Diego  LWSD PARTNER PAIR HHSA

The EMASS innovative practices were profiled in the February 26, 2014 issue of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Innovations Exchange.
The Innovation Profile, Community Health Workers Known as Promotores Enhance Access to Culturally Tailored Services for Elderly, Low-Income Racial/Ethnic Minorities, Leading to Improvements in Mental Health, describes the program’s development, results, and lessons learned, co-directed by Agnes Hajek, ACSW, Program Manager, UPAC-EMASS.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Health Care Innovations Exchange is a Web-based program designed to support health care professionals in sharing and adopting innovations that improve health care quality and reduce disparities.

Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality Website

EMASS Contact Information:
Program Manager:  Agnes Hajek, ACSW     
200 N. Ash Street, Suite 100
Escondido, CA  92027
Phone #: (760)-233-1984

175 W. Lexington Avenue
Suite # B & C
El Cajon, CA  92020
Phone #: (619) 749-5560