2018 is shaping up to be a banner year for El Futuro, the Durham-based nonprofit leaders say.
El Futuro aims to nurture Latinx families and build stronger communities through bilingual and bicultural, evidence-based mental health and substance abuse services. The nonprofit has come a long way from its humble beginnings as a grassroots pilot program led by volunteer psychiatrists, doctors, social workers and community leaders in the early 2000s. Now, El Futuro strives to reach its goals in two main ways, according to Christopher May, the manager for development at El Futuro. First, through its two clinics—located in Siler City (opened in 2006) and in Durham (opened in 2009)—and second, through its educational programs and collaborative networks.
“The families we serve come to us with such resilience, hope, and potential for the future, and what a privilege it is to be a part of an organization that helps ‘nurture stronger families,’ said Kerry Brock, the director of advancement and strategy at El Futuro and a resident of northern Durham County. “In doing that, we are nurtured too, and our entire community grows stronger.”
El Futuro serves clients across 20 counties in North Carolina; some clients travel to the brick-and-mortar clinics, while others receive therapy over the phone or webcam, May said. The clinics, which accept clients regardless of immigration status and ability to pay, now serve between 1,500 and 1,800 individuals each year.
“About 99 percent of the population we serve is at 200 percent or below the federal poverty level,” said May.
North Carolina is home to nearly one million Latinos, and as this number continues to grow, more Latinx families face barriers that hinder their ability to live out their dreams, said Brock.
“From a lack of bilingual providers to not understanding where to turn for help, too many families that have faced extraordinary hardships due to poverty and migration have trouble accessing helpful care,” Brock said.
In May, El Futuro’s downtown Durham clinic will relocate to Lakewood Shopping Center on Chapel Hill Road in southwestern Durham. In 2016, the Scrap Exchange bought vacant spaces in the shopping plaza with plans to transform it into a community-based center called the Reuse Arts District (RAD), according to the organization’s website.
“We’re excited about the opportunity that this brings for synergy with other organizations that serve Latinos in the area,” May said. “We’ll be able to work more closely and hopefully reduce the amount of travel or coordination needed among these families that acquire services from these organizations.”
The new location is also closer to the core of Durham’s Latinx community and includes other benefits like free parking and better accessibility, May said. The new location will have nearly 50 percent more clinic space and will better suit the nonprofit’s new educational and networking programs, according to May and Brock. The move is part of El Futuro’s larger 10-year vision to expand treatment services in North Carolina and develop a national model and resource center for Latinx mental health services.
“El Futuro wants to be able to educate others doing this work and to essentially establish a standard of practice, so our longer-term goal is actually to become a national model for mental health and substance abuse service provision to the Latinx community,” May said.
Welcome to La Mesita
La Mesita, which means “the little table” in Spanish, is a network created by El Futuro that connects mental health providers working with Latinx populations, fostering a community to talk, share and learn.
“This is hard work, and too many providers face isolation and burnout as a result,” said Brock. “Through La Mesita, providers across the state will be strengthened in their services, and more Latino families will gain access to the quality, culturally sensitive care they need to get back to their dreams for the future.”
The program currently includes over 200 individual members across the state. Through La Mesita, El Futuro hosts a monthly webinar, an ongoing online forum and a learning cohort.
“The folks that we serve are very resilient individuals,” said May. “They’ve, a lot of times, gone through a lot—whether it’s in their home country, or during migration, or even just here as they’re adapting to a new culture here. A lot of the stress and anxiety that we see is related to what we call acculturation stress.”
The El Futuro team recognizes the importance of sharing the stories of its clients to a greater audience. The Hands Project is an ongoing effort at El Futuro to document and share progress of clients throughout their journey at the clinic. Photographs of clients’ hands and written reflections line the walls of El Futuro, creating a sense of hope and inspiration for current clients, while also respecting their privacy.
“El Futuro is a place of refuge and healing for so many people, said Luke Smith, El Futuro’s executive director and one of two psychiatrists on staff. “Each person is special and with each person, we celebrate as they make progress and get back on track with their dreams for a brighter future!”
El Futuro greatly relies on the support of the community to continue its efforts in mental health and substance abuse care. The annual benefit luncheon is Friday, March 9 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The benefit luncheon’s sponsors include BB&T, Duke Office of Durham and Regional Affairs, General Financial, Duke Health, UNC Health Care and others.
“We always really love the luncheon because it feels like a big, annual celebration of Latino families getting stronger,” said Brock.
The event brings together individuals interested in El Futuro’s work as well as organizations working with the same community. The luncheon always re-energizes El Futuro staff, Brock said, reinvigorating their sense of purpose and understanding of support in the community.
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