When Patrick Carrillo was a young boy, his father developed a brain tumor. He needed surgery and the odds were not in his favor. In fact, there was a 99.9 percent chance he would not survive the procedure. Against all of the odds, Patrick’s father survived – but not without consequences. The ordeal placed a great deal of stress on Patrick and the rest of his family. “As I have grown older, I look back at that time and I think about how much it would have helped me to talk to a professional, but at the time I didn’t want to. I had always been interested in being a counselor, but that experience with my dad motivated me to work with kids and be someone they can talk to and work with to get through really difficult situations.”
Patrick became a psychologist at Children’s Behavioral Health, which is a division of Columbia Valley Community Health in Wenatchee, Washington. It wasn’t until he was invited to come meet the staff after applying for a position at Columbia Valley Community Health that he heard about the National Health Service Corps (NHSC). “They informed me that, as part of their recruiting package, one of the great features was that we were an NHSC Loan Repayment Program eligible site. It was a huge, additional incentive in terms of coming out to this area,” says Patrick. Patrick applied and was awarded a contract with the NHSC Loan Repayment Program.
Wenatchee has a huge agricultural industry (they are the apple capital of the world), which means a large population of seasonal workers. Patrick explains, “We are also home to a really big, thriving migrant community here, and so we have a lot of seasonal and migrant workers that come up from Mexico, traveling from California, up through Oregon, to Washington. They go down through Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico – following, basically, the crops. And so we have a huge Spanish speaking population here. As the only community health center in the area, part of the main mission of Columbia Valley is to work with these populations.”
But it isn’t just those working that are following the crops. The workers’ families come with them. “It’s tough on their kids,” says Patrick. “Often times they are moving three, four, even five times a year, as their parents go where there is work. So these kids are changing schools three or four times in one year. Naturally, there are some struggles that go along with that.”
It’s Patrick’s job to work with these kids and help them cope with the difficulties that accompany their nomadic lifestyle. “We’ll invite them to come in for an intake, where we’ll meet with the family together to find out what has been going on. The wonderful thing about our agency is that I am -- and one of our case managers is -- fully fluent in English and Spanish. Often times if patients or parents feel like they have to work through a translator, they might be a little less comfortable. Having bilingual staff really makes all the difference in the world for all of the clients that we see.”
According to Patrick, the average annual salary for a farm worker is only about $13,000. His clinic will see anyone, regardless of ability to pay, and he attributes the success of his clinic to the NHSC. “By drawing in clinicians through the National Health Service Corps, federally qualified health centers like Columbia Valley Community Health are able to provide high quality, well-educated, well-trained staff to this community that otherwise really wouldn't be able to afford services.”
Patrick also attributes the NHSC with his ability to do the work he loves without the financial uncertainty many of his colleagues face. “Having six-figure student loans has a big impact on your world. You wonder ‘how will I plan the rest of my life?’ When you have those loans hanging over your head, it’s pretty stressful. Knowing that there is a program like the NHSC Loan Repayment Program that's going to erase my debt for doing something that I wanted to do anyway – working with the population that I love, in a place that I totally fell in love with and being able to raise a family here – that's a huge incentive and it’s a huge bonus.”