The mission of El Centro de Amistad, Inc., (ECDA) a multilingual, cross-cultural organization, is to provide a comprehensive range of mental health services, anticipating the ever-changing needs of families and individuals in the San Fernando Valley. Since our founding in 1977, we have provided critically needed mental health services and programs to more than 110,000 low-income children, individuals, and families.
Because of ECDA’s comprehensive, wraparound mental health services, children and youth are successfully coping with trauma, unemployed adults are managing mental illness and increasing healthy coping skills, and families are learning to better communicate with and support each other. Our goal is that, upon termination, each client will understand how to access available community resources and have an improved support network and clear action plan for maintaining positive behavioral changes.
ECDA got its start in 1977 when two advocates were sipping on a cup of coffee at a local coffee shop that led to a $1 million contract on a napkin to provide services to children in Canoga Park. Founder of El Centro de Amistad, Dr. Tomas Martinez, remembers the agency’s inception. High-risk issues and gang-related activity was impacting the community in Canoga Park in 1977. A group of residents from the impoverished community grew concerned about the needs of the predominantly Latino families who struggled with unemployment, crime, poverty, and drug abuse. In particular, they were concerned about the youth in the area and the lack of resources for them. With the encouragement and financial support of San Fernando Mental Health Centers Inc. and their board of directors, this Canoga Park group of activists and Dr. Martinez founded El Centro de Amistad.
Working in collaboration with Tarzana Treatment Center staff, who provided supervision for El Centro de Amistad’s substance abuse services, a community advisory board provided direction to the program. In 1984, El Centro de Amistad Inc. officially became a nonprofit with its own board of directors. With the support of then-Supervisor Michael Antonovich, our agency was able to secure a $68,000 contract from the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health Services to provide community mental health outreach services to at-risk, gang-involved youth by providing substance abuse treatment and related services.
Our agency has grown to employ more than 80 staff members. While initially targeting the large community of at-risk, gang-involved youth by providing substance abuse treatment and related services, El Centro de Amistad’s programs have expanded to provide comprehensive and culturally competent mental health, case management, medication support, counseling, and assessment services to over 110,000 individuals.
Today, our cup overflows with the commitment of our board, staff, and community, who serve to bring healing to children and youth, and empower individuals to live for a better tomorrow.
ECDA’s board of directors are collectively raising $9,000 during the month of May, Mental Health Awareness month to support our mission. Your donation will ensure that youth and families will receive the support that they need.