Over the last few years, El Futuro has expanded our view of mental health services, reaching beyond our clinic walls and engaging more deeply with our community, neighbors, and partner organizations. This deeper community engagement not only helps reduce mental health risk factors, but also increases social connection, boosts cultural resilience, and improves community well-being, building up protective factors that support families through challenging times.
The center of our community engagement is Plaza Futuro, a therapeutic garden and play space adjacent to our Lakewood clinic. Once a weedy, abandoned lot, we co-developed this space with our community and neighbors, going door-to-door to ask people about their desires for the space, and inviting neighbors for community fiestas and volunteer opportunities.
Plaza Futuro includes raised bed gardens for urban foraging, a small rain garden and fountain, a recycling stream, and a sensory garden and meditation path – all anchored by a beautiful community mural developed by renowned artist Cornelio Campos and painted collaboratively with Latino families from the neighborhood.
It is an inclusive and culturally-affirming space that welcomes all. On any given day Plaza Futuro is filled with a diverse cross-section of community residents playing, gathering, relaxing, and simply enjoying the space. It is also the site of volunteer projects, community fiestas, holiday and cultural celebrations, workshops, children’s programs, and more. This vibrant, therapeutic space nurtures, represents and celebrates individual and community identities in support of community mental health.
El Futuro’s community engagement also includes psychoeducation, support, and treatment groups; our Conexiones case management program; partnerships with schools and community-based organizations; training of community health workers; and more.
By surrounding individuals and families with supportive, wrap-around care, connecting them to additional resources through Conexiones, providing psychoeducation to help boost emotional wellness, creating opportunities to strengthen cultural pride and resilience, and building a community supportive of mental health with less stigma, we are addressing today’s challenges while building support networks, social connection, and cultural resilience to help prevent tomorrow’s challenges.
The Strong Minds Strong Communities intervention consists of 10, one-hour psychoeducation sessions using an integrative approach adapted from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, including motivational interviewing, mindfulness, behavioral activation, psychoeducation, and self-management. These sessions are delivered by trained Community Health Workers. Eligible participants are adults 18+ that speak Spanish and have symptoms of anxiety and/or depression.
Mi Voz, Nuestra Salud
The Mi Voz, Nuestra Salud initiative arises from the knowledge of how important the role of the community is in the development of research that tries to find solutions to mental health issues.
From previous research, we have learned about barriers to accessing mental health services and about mental health in the Latino community. Despite this, we know that mental health problems still exist in the Latino community, especially in adolescents. Sometimes there are feelings of frustration because the recommendations and remedies that come out of these studies have not always included the voices of the Latino community and therefore are not well informed by the community and the community does not feel the benefit of these studies. To find true solutions, we have to learn from the community, use their knowledge, and include their voice in the process.
We are working with a team of adolescents, parents, and Community Health workers (CHWs) and asking them to share their experiences and knowledge to help us understand how we can create research projects that represent the needs and desires of the Latino community and that inform about barriers to participation.
Immigrant Solidarity Network
The goal of our Immigrant Solidarity Network initiative is the development of a diverse network of North Carolinians with the common purpose of studying the systemic barriers to mental health care access for immigrants in North Carolina and developing policy and system changes to achieve better health for all North Carolinians.