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Investment to expand La Mesita Pilot to fund more Latino behavioral health care

By Sofia Edelman | June 11, 2019 | Community Health

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When El Futuro began as a volunteer-led organization in 2004, we were serving a nearly completely unmet need — in Carrboro, there was no brick and mortar institution for Latino community members to access quality behavioral health care. Clinics in the Triangle had a shortage of providers able to serve the growing number of Latino immigrants moving to the area, and many were falling through the cracks.

At first, El Futuro was only a meeting of behavioral health care providers sharing resources on how their Latino clients could access care more easily. Then, brick by brick, our founding members and countless volunteers created welcoming environments of hope and healing — first in Carrboro, then in Siler City, then in Durham.

We are so grateful to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) for their $250,000 investment to help to expand La Mesita Pilot Program to reach out further into the state to better reach rural and underserved areas.

Our History

Through the years, we have grown our services beyond our original vision of providing bilingual therapy and psychiatry. Not only do we have a dedicated staff of Spanish-bilingual behavioral health clinicians, but we now offer case management services, school-based care, telemental-health services, trauma-focused movement groups, a therapeutic green space, and training on culturally-responsive practices.

El Futuro’s original office in downtown Carborro, NC.
El Futuro’s original office in downtown Carborro, NC.

As we’ve grown in the scope of our work across different clinics, it has become more and more apparent how large the need is for culturally-responsive behavioral health care for all of North Carolina’s Latino communities. Though we wished we could continue expanding our clinics to fill that need, we realized that wasn’t the answer to serving more familias.

“We have a history of coming around the table to share what we’re learning in this emerging field of healthcare,” El Futuro Executive Director and Psychiatrist Dr. Luke Smith said. “It is a natural step to enlarge the table and pull up more chairs so that others around the state can learn with us. The impact is truly statewide.”  

So, as before, we gathered around the table, la mesita, to find ways to increase access to behavioral health care for the Latino community. As an organization, we had more than a decade of experience serving the community — we had gained institutional knowledge on culturally responsive practices and treatment — and we knew that others across the state held that knowledge as well. That was the inspiration to create La Mesita Latino Mental Health Provider Network — to spread our practical expertise across North Carolina while spotlighting other providers who have gained knowledge in their practice. Together, we believed we could create a network of providers across the state that shared knowledge, lifted each other up, and increased the quality of behavioral health care for North Carolina’s Latino communities. Nearly two years later, we can say with confidence we were right.

How we work

To date, we have held 16 popularly attended webinars in our monthly series on Latino behavioral health. These webinars have covered a range of topics related to cultural and contextual issues impacting the Latino community and how providers can best address them in their work. We have also held three iterations of our 5-month long Learning Cohort course on culturally-responsive care, with applications now open for our fourth Learning Cohort, which will begin in August 2019. Nearly 60 providers have participated in our ECHO case consultation clinic, where groups of behavioral health clinicians serving Latinos come together weekly to learn about best practices in Latino behavioral health through didactic presentations and by engaging in tele-case consultations with providers from across the state. Throughout this process, our Latino Mental Health Provider network, or La Mesita, has grown to more than 425 people.

Members of El Futuro’s La Mesita Learning Cohort network at our Durham office
Members of El Futuro’s La Mesita Learning Cohort network at our Durham office

The Future of La Mesita

El Futuro Associate Director of Training, Juan Prandoni, Ph.D., said he feels lucky to be a part of an organization that de-monopolizes knowledge.

“It’s really rewarding to know that we are helping to build a better-equipped workforce in North Carolina capable of delivering best practices to the Latino community, where the need for equitable and evidence-based services is often so great,” Prandoni said.

La Mesita’s next step is to continue to validate our training so the evidence-base on improving Latino behavioral health care can grow and be shared with more clinicians. Our hope is to facilitate the sharing of knowledge with the goal of improving behavioral health outcomes for Latino community members across the state.