Opening Doors: La Frontera Arizona
Jul 02, 2013 08:43PM
● By Suzie Agrillo
La Frontera Arizona has been a local nonprofit for 40 years. Recently, it has expanded its mission from strictly providing behavioral health services into that of a “community problem solver.” Dan Ranieri, longtime CEO of La Frontera, is the veritable Steve Jobs of the nonprofit behavioral health sector. He attributes the resiliency of La Frontera in these turbulent economic times to its ability to be innovative, novel and creative. Much larger than typical nonprofits, Ranieri is in charge of 17 corporations and upwards of a $75 million annual budget. In order to remain competitive, Ranieri has become known as a problem solver. “I believe in making the impossible possible. If someone tells me, ‘I can’t do it,’ I tell them to find a way to overcome the problem.”
Some of the diverse community problems Ranieri is tackling include public safety, violence reduction, suicide prevention, economic development, affordable housing and education. On the housing front, recently La Frontera showcased Sunnyside Pointe Villas, which will include 90 single-family rental units for low-income seniors. The construction was environmentally based to keep utility costs down and enable seniors on a budget to live there.
Another relatively new division acquired by La Frontera is La Paloma, which provides foster care and group homes for youth. La Paloma offers a JUMP for College program, which provides services to local students to assist them in their academic performance. The goal is to enable them to stay in school and ultimately get a college education, breaking the cycle of poverty.
Veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as other duty, are eligible for services at the new La Frontera entity, Rally Point. Bill Magnotto, executive director for La Frontera Partners, explains, “When veterans get out of the service, most of them have been on multiple deployments. They have no training to go back into society. Because we have a volunteer army, a lot of veterans didn’t have jobs prior to entering the service. They were taught to kill and not to trust anyone. Most, if not all veterans have post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”
Rally Point is a place where any veteran that is having trouble getting Veteran’s Administration services can receive help to navigate the bureaucracy and get the benefits to which they are entitled. The counselors will also help with problems veterans typically encounter, including homelessness and job training. Many veterans with PTSD do not want to be on medications due to side effects. La Frontera created a program utilizing the process of mindfulness based stress reduction for them. It is a nationally recognized therapy premised upon meditation and relaxation.
Magnotto revealed the grim statistic that more veterans are dying from suicide than combat. In order to counteract the isolation and depression veterans face, La Frontera offers social groups that are peer-run by veterans for veterans. Family members are also invited to talk about what is going on in their lives and vent the frustrations they are feeling. “These services are free to all veterans. We make vets feel more comfortable in their own skin and their own community,” Magnotto comments.
In addition to Rally Point, La Frontera is using cutting-edge technology to help veterans. David Bradley, chief development officer for La Frontera, explains that they are developing mobile applications for veterans that will allow them to have a virtual life coach 24 hours a day. “The app will provide counseling, suicide prevention and medication monitoring to enable veterans to stay focused on looking for work, shelter or whatever their needs are.”
Kathy Wells, vice president and chief operating officer of La Frontera, enjoys being around hardworking, passionate people, and one of her favorite assignments is organizing the annual Tucson International Mariachi Conference (TIMC). The conference is a celebration of mariachi culture, music and Folklorico dance, performed by famous professionals and aspiring student performers. These talented kids come together to share their love and passion for mariachi music and take lessons from the experienced performers.
The TIMC has been going strong for 32 years. According to Wells, “It was established as a partnership with educators and economically disadvantaged Hispanic youth to increase their self-esteem and roots in the community, and to instill pride in the Hispanic culture.” All of the proceeds from the conference are dedicated to children’s services. La Frontera leadership believes that investing time and energy in young people and their futures is a responsibility that goes hand-and-hand with being a successful behavioral health agency.
La Frontera has more than 850 experienced, caring professionals and myriad clinics, crisis lines, treatment centers and residential complexes, as well as inpatient and outpatient facilities. On the clinical side, it supports clients in their recovery with comprehensive counseling and behavioral health services that include medication, substance abuse counseling, group therapy, one-on-one therapy and employment services. Many of its services are provided at no cost to clients.
La Frontera Arizona is located at 504 W. 29th, in Tucson. To schedule an appointment, call 520-838-3804. For the Rally Point Suicide Hotline, call 855-725-5948. For more information, visit LaFronteraArizona.org.