Centro Multicultural La Familia formerly known as El Centro “La Familia” was founded in 1985 by Oakland County Community Mental Health (OCCMH) to provide the Hispanic community with quality mental health care in a culturally sensitive way. The County provided mental health services but did not have bilingual staff among their health providers. At that time, the late Mayor Charlie Harrison and a group of community leaders were instrumental in the awareness of the need and initiation of mental health services for the Spanish-speaking population of Oakland County.
In 1992, Sonia Acosta, PhD, became El Centro’s first full time supervisor. She was hired by Mary Griffiths, MSW to supervise the program and also to provide direct mental health services. Then, El Centro was located at One Water Street in downtown Pontiac and had a full time clerical staff, 1.5 mental health clinicians and 4 hours of psychiatric time.
In 1995, El Centro partnered with Healthy Start/Healthy Families Program to apply for a grant through the Children’s Trust Fund to provide family support services to Spanish-speaking families. This is a partnership that grew from the need to provide support and education to families with high risk for child abuse and neglect and whose clients did not qualify for mental health services. El Centro has been licensed since 1997 to provide outpatient substance abuse services and in 1999 it was licensed to provide screening and referral services as well as prevention. El Centro was one of four recipients in Michigan who, in 1998 received national recognition as an exemplary program for children’s mental health by the National Latino Children’s Institute.
In 2000, OCCMH became an authority and stopped providing direct services. El Centro as well as all other programs looked for a new home and it became part of Easter Seals of Southeastern Michigan in October 1, 2000. In 2002, El Centro obtained a small grant from the United Way to develop a directory of services provided primarily for the Hispanic population. The center partnered with the Latino Press newspaper and published our first Hispanic Directory in 2003. Also, in 2002, El Centro obtained a block grant from the Department of Community Health to implement Person-Centered Planning, which is a fundamental philosophy in the provision of mental health services.
Under the direction of Dr. Acosta, Centro grew to be a program with 35 bilingual, bicultural staff including 2 psychiatrists, 3 doctoral level staff, 12 master’s level clinicians and 8 bachelor’s level case managers. Given the demands for new services beyond mental health, Centro separated from Easter Seals in 2007 and has grown to provide a wider variety of services for the Hispanic community and other ethnic groups.
Centro Multicultural La Familia, Inc is located in the heart of Pontiac, Michigan in an area central to the primary Hispanic population within Oakland County. Agency staff is themselves Hispanic and Anglo professionals who are well versed and sensitive to the cultural needs of the populations it serves. CMLF is highly visible and collaborates with several organizations to enhance services to the community.