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Behind the Scenes


George de la Mora
Executive Director, MAAP

Profile produced by Jen Fischer


George de la Mora was born in Mexico, and raised in Los Angeles, but today this former financial analyst is firmly planted in the Central Valley. He's shifted his focus from businessman to healthcare leader.

Today, De la Mora is the Executive director of the Mexican-American Alcoholism Program, or MAAP.. The organization was established in 1976 as a community treatment program. It has since expanded to four locations throughout Sacramento and Galt. When de la Mora took over in 1998, he realized that MAAP would have to expand yet again to serve the community's growing needs.

To address those needs, in December MAAP opened this community clinic. It's open to anyone who needs medical attention, but MAAP has grown into the largest service provider for Latinos in the Greater Sacramento area.

In addition to the community clinics and group homes, De La Mora says MAAP has works closely with several schools to promote healthy lifestyles. Given the needs of our expanding population, de la Mora says MAAP will continue to find innovative ways to help the New Valley become a healthier place to live.

I understand that you got your start in business?

Yes, that's correct. I actually started out in economic development when my career first started; I was a business major. I wanted to be an accountant or a CPA at one time. So my background actually started working with small businesses, preparing loan applications for small businesses, contracts with governments. From there I started working with other non-profits providing technical assistance for organizations like MAAP and other Latino organizations throughout the Southwest. That's what brought me to environmental healthcare. I came upon a clinic in Los Angeles that was looking for an executive director. At the time, their desires matched what I had been trained for. It provided me with a different motivation; going into the healthcare setting bringing a business background proved to be very beneficial to the clinic. We were able to do a lot of fund raising and a lot of growth for the clinic. It led me to see a new insight into what community involvement meant. I had a mentor at that time who was my board chair who introduced me to what I now consider to be the real definition of community involvement. He had me go to meetings with him and be active in community functions, which goes above and beyond what happens everyday in the course of running the clinic and the center. But it gave me a new perspective as to what we were trying to do, or the real purpose of the agency can be. So from there I spent eleven years in a community healthcare setting in Los Angeles before moving up north. I was in Santa Cruz County for a year. I spent a year and half in Alameda, actually in Oakland, working with substance abuse in Indian women and children. That was a whole new setting for me. That wasn't your traditional healthcare, where you're working with pediatrics or prenatal care. Now you're looking at substance abuse issues, which was totally different. I had never been exposed to that before. And again it opened up a totally new door for me.

So coming to MAAP…at the time I came to MAP it was the Mexican-American Alcoholism Program. We've been in the process the last few years of changing the image of the Mexican-American Alcoholism Program because we aren't a Mexican-American program per se. We do specialize in working with Latinos with the cultural and language issues. But our clients aren't necessarily Mexican-American; we work with everybody that needs our assistance. Also, the word alcoholism within the name of the program gave a negative connotation to those that think, "Geez, too bad about you Mexican-Americans and the alcohol program problems that you have." So we decided to just use the acronym. Which leads to another issue that people ask, "What does it stand for?" It opens up that door for conversation when you explain what it is and how it started and it just leads to a lot people wanting to know why a substance abuse program is doing healthcare. Why a substance abuse program is doing a youth program, which for a lot of people was totally unrelated when we started this process. So it was big learning curve for staff and myself, how to put these programs together that are family-related or affect the families. The youth program is a prevention program for substance abuse. We'd rather see them now than see them in one of our treatment centers.

So if MAAP wants to be more than just a treatment program, how much further do you have to go to achieve your ultimate goals?

Well, I think we have a long ways to go still. I think the vision of expanding what MAP was is a vision that I presented during the initial interview process when they were looking for an executive director. My having the clinic background was very influential in us going into this arena. One of the things that I quickly saw when I started working in this setting was a lot of our clients who were coming in for alcohol or substance abuse issues also had health needs. Substance abuse and alcohol should be considered a health issue and most people now recognize that it as a health issue. They also had their basic health needs that they weren't able to receive. Us providing this primary health care center was a natural extension for us. We have a residential program where people stay with us for three months and sometimes longer. We have a twenty-bed capacity and all the twenty individuals in there at one time or another require healthcare. They all require TB tests; they all get sick even when they're in the center. They get sick when they leave and they don't have the resources for where to go. So we were able to bridge that gap. We have a lot of programs where we work with the community. We work with farm workers, migrant populations, and the issue was always the same; there was no healthcare provider to meet their needs. There was no healthcare provider that speaks Spanish; there was no healthcare provider that understands their cultural needs. There's no healthcare provider that can see them on a Saturday or a weekend. So us opening that center was a natural extension of those programs. We've had an HIV education program now for ten to twelve years. So this opens up another avenue for us. While we are providing the HIV education, the natural context of that is that we also have a health center that can provide services.

I understand that this probably one of the largest providers in Sacramento County for the Latino community?

In terms of the Latino community in Sacramento, we're probably the largest provider in direct services in terms of the ethnic population. We consider ourselves to be a very multi-cultural agency. Where the Latin population in terms of clientele numbers about 50%, African Americans probably in the 20th percentile, Caucasian or White community is about 30 percentile. Those are probably a little high; I didn't mention Asian Americans.

Do you plan to build more clinics in the future? What's the five to ten year goal?

The five to ten year goal is more clinics. Right now we should be opening one up in Galt within the next six months. We're in line for some state funding -- knock on wood that the deficit won't take that funding out. We're hoping we can establish a health center in the city of Galt probably by the summer of this year. We're also preparing an application to the federal government which will allow us to expand our services and to work with the homeless population as well. One of the things we're very active with is working with other collaborators within the city and county of Sacramento. We have many partners that we work with that are providing similar or more specialized care in other fields. It may be nutrition; it may be food; it may be other types of housing; it may be other types of referrals, so we have a long list of people that we work with. One of the programs that we just got funded through the federal government is through SAMSA, the substance abuse mental health agency. That's a program to provide services in a substance abuse setting to help prevent HIV to the ethnic minorities. In that setting we're working with five other agencies including CARES, which is an HIV service provider.

So would you say that the healthcare providers in the Central Valley are working together towards the goal of helping a lot of the population that may not normally get help?

I think so, because even the county now is working with us. They know that the need -- not any one program can address the whole need. There's a large population of residents that are uninsured. The county takes care of what is defined as an indigent population, but that leaves a big population of working poor citizens or undocumented people who are not necessarily receiving the services right now. That's the target that we are hoping to reach, to provide not necessarily better healthcare but healthcare that everybody needs and everybody deserves regardless of their economic or residential status here. We're looking at people who are making an honest living and can't have health insurance, whose children are not receiving healthcare, whose children can't receive dental care. So we have children going to school with toothaches that can't concentrate on their education. Another thing we've done is adopted two elementary schools here: Edward Campbell and Cesar Chavez here in South Sacramento. We have programs that we formed in the school. We're working with families in the school, we just started a La frotico? Which most people will ask what does that have to do with substance abuse or healthcare? I think what it does is create a forum for people to get together and to trust what we're doing, where we become a main ingredient in the education system, where we can come to your school, we can come to your community or come to your house and provide health education services. We want to be that entity, that if you need resources you can call us and hopefully we can help you find those resources, whether it's healthcare or housing or even employment training. We hope to be able to have contacts with those people so that we can have referrals, and so we want to want work with the churches, we want to work with the schools and be an active member of the community.

So are you satisfied with what you've accomplished here since 1998?

I think if you look at where we were and what we've done and the communication that we've had…if I sit back and look at it I think that its amazing, the growth that we've been able to develop or attain for MAAP. And not just for MAAP but for the services that we provide and linking various community agencies together so that we work as a team, as opposed to working in different factions and not coexisting -- or competing for the same dollarbase to serve the same people. And so the people who lose out on that system is the community that needs that service to begin with, because we've spent so much energy trying to beef up our own funding programs. So we've been able to resolve some of that where we're working on a team basis, we're making the same application together for the same funding sources. And dividing the work that needs to be done, whether it's by territory or by the service that's going to be provided and I think it's going to help the individuals out there because there are so many people out there in need. Even if you look at the substance abuse population and we were able to cure everybody tomorrow and everybody is practicing alcohol abstinence, there's a group of sixteen year olds that come in the next day and want to start experimenting. Once we resolve that issue, we come to another group that's 15,16, 17 years old and they're going to start experimenting. It's an ongoing battle or challenge. What keeps me motivated is seeing the kids out there and the potential that they have; when you come to the clinic and you see the parents and what that family does. It's a nice feeling that I never received from doing a balance sheet or a loan package. It was nice to help someone expand their business. Now I'm in the position where I'm helping a child's life, I'm helping their potential. I don't want to be a crutch for a family or a parent. What I want to do is empower the parent to help them lead that child to different potentials -- to open those doors. Not necessarily because I have the answers or I know what they want to do or should do. All I want to do is create a vision for that parent and that child, give that child an honest opportunity. We know that our children don't all grow up in the same manner or in the same opportunities. If you take two children growing up in different households where one grows up reading books or seeing books in the living room, when they get to first grade or even kindergarten or preschool they're that much more advanced than the child who has never seen a book in their household or had no experience with reading. So we have some catching up to do even at the five-year old level. A lot of kids go to college 200 or 300 points ahead in their SAT scores from other children because they've grown up reading. That makes a big factor in test scores. It doesn't mean that they're smarter; it just means they take better tests. A lot of times those test scores open up that door for you, whether it's college admissions or for a certain job. What we want to do is expand the ability of an individual to give them the potential to grow and to want things. There's nothing that says that you have to stay in your neighborhood. We want to give up on that concept of "I grew up here so I have to stay here." We want to make this a truly global picture. The whole economy is being based on global issues. There's no reason why we have to stay within the confines of our neighborhood. It's nice to live in your neighborhoods and to care for it, but it doesn't mean that you can't go across the street to someone else's neighborhood and be safe and walk by and be friends with people; just creating that whole atmosphere of globalness and giving each child the ability to say, "The world is mine."


The complete text of New Valley Episode 110 -- Movers & Shakers...


Presentation also made possible by a grant from
the Great Valley Center


New Valley Official Site