Editor’s note: As part of the News + Record’s commitment to the community, we’re partnering with the United Way of Chatham County to help provide insight into the work of the agencies the …
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Editor’s note: As part of the News + Record’s commitment to the community, we’re partnering with the United Way of Chatham County to help provide insight into the work of the agencies the program helps fund with a series of local agency profiles; information is provided by the agencies in conjunction with the United Way. The United Way relies on donations from individuals and businesses to meet the needs of its member agencies. Please consider a generous gift.
Focus Area: Strengthening the Community (health)
Name of United Way Supported Program: Chatham County Latino Child and Family Mental Health Treatment
How will El Futuro use United Way donor dollars?: United Way funding is supporting delivery of comprehensive, bilingual, outpatient mental health treatment for Latino families in Chatham County. Clients are provided therapy (individual, group, or family), psychiatry, and case management, all in a culturally-responsive environment that reduces barriers to care for Latino families.
Due to the continued high levels of demand for bilingual mental health treatment in the community, El Futuro is consistently called to expand our service provision. Over the last two years, we’ve expanded our Siler City clinic operations from two to three days / week, expanded our clinic capacity by 50 percent in the new Ivey Avenue space, and initiated case management services to help meet complex and overlapping needs.
Despite these efforts, there are still more families who need services. We are continually asked to be open more days per week, provide services in different locations across the county, and generally expand our treatment array.
In FY2020, we’re continuing our steady growth of services for Chatham County families by adding another clinician to our Siler City clinic, expanding case management services, providing additional capacity for medication management follow up appointments through telepsychiatry provided from our home clinic in Durham, and further developing the walk-in clinic approach in our Siler City clinic, including additional community outreach to help connect more families to these growing services.
Funding from United Way is helping support these growing personnel costs, and specifically the salary of an additional therapist in Siler City. This therapist provides individual and family treatment, coordinates care with case managers and other community agencies as appropriate, works with the whole family to improve psycho-social skills and supportive networks, and serves as a liaison to other community agencies working toward improved outcomes for Latino families.
Why is this program essential to Chatham County?: Sixty-five percent of respondents to the United Way of Chatham County Community Needs Assessment identified lack of mental health care as a problem in Chatham, and the report cites decreasing funding for community mental health services, along with a fragmented system of care, making the process of finding appropriate care difficult. The report also notes behavioral outcomes for youth as a concern, with particular emphasis on alcohol and drug abuse, teen pregnancies, and high school dropout rates.
For Latino youth, the needs are even more critical. According to the preliminary findings of the 2018 Community Health Assessment, Latino youth were more likely than their peers to have attempted or seriously considered suicide, or to have felt sad or hopeless every day for more than two weeks. Chatham County was also designated as a Mental Health Professional Shortage Area for Spanish-speaking residents due to the lack of adequate numbers of bilingual mental health providers. Our program addresses these needs by making high quality, bilingual mental health treatment more accessible to low-income Latino families in Chatham County.
How does the program make a difference in the community?: El Futuro recognizes that Latino immigrant families arrive in our community seeking a better future. Yet too often, extraordinary hardships related to the stresses of migration and poverty result in mental health challenges. In many cases, violence in the home country is so severe that the best option parents can find is to send their children, alone, to relatives or other acquaintances in the US. In a survey of our clients we found 54 percent of the children we serve are unaccompanied minors. Many others — 60 percent of our client population — are victims of human trafficking, domestic violence, sexual assault, or other crimes.
Additionally, the migration journey often includes separation from family, and then, upon arrival, there is cultural and linguistic isolation. These hardships are known to create symptoms of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and substance abuse (the most frequent symptoms we treat) — all of which can have negative impacts on academic success, behavior, productivity, and relationships. Additionally, cognitive function and decision making abilities are significantly impacted by the chronic stress of poverty and by traumatic exposures. Without appropriate treatment, individuals are unable to take advantage of available opportunities such as education. These exposures are also known to have long-term health impacts. In other words, left untreated, these mental health symptoms negatively impact the ability of the families to function at their best and achieve their dreams.
Our team of bilingual, licensed therapists, psychiatrists, and case managers provide evidence-based, trauma-informed mental health treatments in a welcoming environment that honors the dignity and value of everyone who comes through our doors. At-risk individuals are routinely referred to El Futuro through strong connections with other local agencies, and our growing case management program helps connect Latino families to other community services, reducing stressors that may impact mental health. Once engaged in treatment, our services help develop important coping skills, grow parenting abilities and build community.
We do not seek the quick fix solution but rather work towards sustainable changes that will help the individuals feel better (clinical improvement) and function better (socially, physically, occupationally, scholastically and in the home setting). On average, our clients stay for at least six appointments or until they are better, which may mean getting back to work, attending school again, sleeping through the night without nightmares, or staying sober.
We provide culturally and linguistically appropriate interventions designed to not only help the individual but also strengthen the whole family. We know that warm and nurturing relationships between children and adults can serve as powerful bulwarks against the stressors affecting individuals in poverty and against mental illnesses. When parents are able to reduce their stress and anxiety, they can better respond to their children’s emotional needs and help them manage difficulties. To that end, we use a two-generation approach with family centered treatment methods, despite current policy structures that most often focus only on the health of the child without encouraging treatment for the affected parent.
Through all of these approaches, our program nurtures stronger familias to live out their dreams, and reduces unnecessary burdens on our educational, social service, and healthcare systems. To that end, our program helps strengthen the entire community.
Please share a story about a Chatham resident this program helped and the impact it made: Juan (not his real name) was referred to Dr. Luke Smith, El Futuro’s Executive Director & Psychiatrist, a few years ago after having to be hospitalized for symptoms related to schizophrenia. At the time, Juan’s life was extremely impacted by his symptoms, and he was not able to hold down a job. After several months of treatment, his symptoms had improved to the point that his treatment with Dr. Smith came to an end.
Just a few weeks ago, Dr. Smith went to a local store and recognized Juan, who was working there. Juan and Dr. Smith spent a few minutes catching up, and Dr. Smith was thrilled to see that Juan’s symptoms were still being managed and that he’s now able to work and have more stability in his life. Juan’s story is one that reflects that, with adequate access to quality treatment, even the most severe symptoms of mental illness can be improved, helping our community’s newest members get back to their dreams for the future that brought them here in the first place.