de la Mora
Executive Director, MAAP
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.
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
So coming to MAAP
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
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
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."