Full Circle: Sharing Success of a Family's Care & the Impact It Has Today
Behavioral Health Consultant Judy Villalobos Shares the Past That Brings Her to One Community Health Today.
For some of us at One Community Health (OCH), we come to our job, advancing health and social justice for all because it matters and we want to make sure it is happening in our world. However, others working here believe in our mission because they’ve experienced the benefits of it firsthand. For them, our vision of care—and playing a role in achieving it—is deeply personal.
That’s just what it is for Judy Villalobos, MSW, who recently joined our behavioral health team at the School-Based Health Center. In the 1980s, her parents immigrated from Mexico to the United States, tending the orchards and living in small cabins up in Odell.
“We were poor,” Judy says. “Things like transportation and access to health care were something my parents struggled with. Navigating the health care system was hard with Spanish being their primary language.”
When her father had some pressing health care needs, Judy (pictured here with her family) recalls they went to a couple of other places before connecting to One Community Health. Known then as La Clínica del Cariño, this health care home offered not just excellent services but great comfort through its providers who spoke Spanish and understood her father’s needs. Here, her family felt very fortunate.
“Before that, it was up to me to read the documents and translate for my dad, and you can imagine this was quite nerve-racking for a 12 year old,” Judy says. “ When we came in and heard the provider speaking Spanish to us, it was such a great relief. It took the pressure off me—a kid. It was also easier for my father to express his needs.
Looking back, Judy says she only had fond memories of our services and our staff. As we’ve always strived to do, the staff at that time made an effort to understand her family’s culture and to respect it.
“We were always welcomed,” she says. “We never felt judged.”
And that made such an impression on Judy that it inspired her to pursue a bachelor’s degree and career in social work. Learning how to advocate for someone’s health care at such a young age, she discovered her love for supporting people in general.
“Just helping people understand and figure out the system is really important,” says Judy, whose parents long ago became legal citizens, pursued new jobs, and are now retired. “Because our personal struggles really impacted me, I also wanted to help other families who have the same struggles. It’s an honor for me to be on the other end of things and to give back and serve my community the way we were served.”
Specifically, Judy strives to recognize and support students experiencing trauma. This, in addition to her Latino background, gives her the ability to relate to the patients who see her and to respond through a unique, effective lens.
“Given the political climate, news and natural disasters of today, there’s a definite increase in anxiety, trauma and depression among the children of migrant farmworkers,” she says. “But they usually don’t realize that’s what’s going on with them. They come in feeling depressed, are shaking, or have a fast heartbeat. When their medical tests are normal, I explain to them the symptoms of stress. I tell them their emotional health is something they need to take care of and educate them on coping skills.”
No doubt, here at OCH, Judy’s work is fitting right in with our mission. And while she’s got years ahead of her in this line of service, she’s already connecting with and being present for her patients. Access to health care is more possible for these students, and Judy is committed to providing them with the resources they need. In that, Judy already feels a strong sense of personal and professional fulfillment. You might even say she’s come full circle.