Staff Highlights

As we continue to expand, we have two fresh faces on board to serve more clients. Karina will help with outreach and partnerships as we spread into more counties across Washington, and Escarleth will step in to provide therapy for low or no-income people suffering from PMADs. We asked them about their excitement and experience, passion for bilingual access in mental health, and wishes for the future. 

Karina Saunders, M.Ed. (she/her), Community Outreach & Training Manager

Karina Saunders

Hi! I’m Karina (She/Her), I’m excited to introduce myself and some of the work that I’m doing at PS-WA . Originally from New York I’ve lived in Washington for about 8 years and have worked in nonprofits and education throughout my career. As I finish my first few months at PS-WA I’ve enjoyed getting to know so many new people and learn how the state is supporting perinatal mental health. 

Your position directly impacts PS-WA’s two largest programs: our parent support Warm Line and our professional training program. What drew you to those programs?

I’m so excited to get to know and support the 11 Task Force communities across the state! In my first few months at PS-WA, I’ve loved learning how each community defines itself, and how they are coming together as a larger community to address the specific needs, barriers, and gaps in the perinatal mental health world within their pocket. I’m new professionally to the perinatal mental health world, but in previous jobs in higher education and nonprofit work, I’ve enjoyed finding ways for people to come together, especially in marginalized or under-resourced communities. I’m hopeful that as I listen and learn to the dedicated experts in the task forces I my past experience, knowledge, and skills will translate to support growth in these communities so that more practitioners, and providers, will be trained and connected so that they can better support families across the state!

As a mother of two, and currently, in the postpartum period I understand in a very tangible way, the importance of peer-to-peer support for mental health. Knowing that I’m not alone and that there is support from people who have experienced this really challenging period is crucial.  As Community Outreach and Training manager, I get to spread the word about The Warm Line! I’m excited to share with new people and new regions the very valuable resource of The Warm Line. If you’re reading this and know of an organization or group that would benefit from learning more or hearing a presentation about how to use The Warm Line, please reach out! 

What would you like people who have not heard of the Warm Line to know?

¡Hablamos español! The Warm Line has live answering in Spanish, and we’re hoping to expand to more languages. 

Also, The warm line is unique in that you get to talk to someone who has actually been through some version of what you’re going through! Peer-to-peer, parent-to-parent support is so different than talking to a therapist or other provider. Sometimes even knowing that there is another side after the chaos of postpartum can mean so much. I also think people don’t always realize that the Warm Line supports people in the whole perinatal period which includes (trying to conceive, infertility, and loss) so often folks keep these experiences private and hidden and don’t realize the effect on their mental health, The Warm Line is an important resource for people in all of these experiences. 

Anything else you’d like the PS-WA community to know about your work?

Connect with me! I’m eager to learn more about the work that you’re doing, the people you’re serving, and how we might better support you! Let me know if you have an event or gathering that you think would be helpful for someone from PS-WA to attend to share about The Warm Line or other work that we do, I’m happy to come. 

Escarleth De Leon, M.S., LMFT. (she/her) Staff Therapist

Escarleth De Leon

What drew you to PS-WA? 

I love that PS-WA is constantly working toward supporting people in the perinatal phase through a variety of programs. As a therapist I was immediately sold when I saw that I could be part of a team serving this population regardless of their insurance coverage. It is important to me, to be a resource to those who need the services and affordability is a big barrier. Also, I love the fact that I can be part of a non-profit organization without having to compromise my own sanity.

You are based in Bellingham, what changes would you like to see in patient access to mental health resources there?

First, I want to say that the Whatcom Perinatal Task Force is actively working toward best ways of supporting providers and families. I wish that clinics had perinatal mental health providers as part of the team caring for prenatal and postpartum people. I wish that more mental health providers could pursue training in perinatal mental health. I wish we could increase partnerships with current organizations serving this population. 

The field of perinatal mental health could use more bilingual therapists like yourself. Have you experienced any barriers to providing care in languages other than English?

We absolutely need more bilingual therapists and I want to say that navigating the educational system can be cumbersome. Once I went through the educational and licensing requirements some barriers that I have encountered when providing care in Spanish is the scarcity of cultural relevant resources. Another one is not having a referral network of professionals addressing the extra-layers impacting mental health in minorities. 

Anything else you’d like the PS-WA community to know about your work?

I am grateful to be part of this community and look forward to continue growing to serve families in such a crucial phase. I believe that by supporting parents we are investing in the wellness of our communities!