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St. Paul mental health agency for Hispanics closes

La Familia Guidance Center, a 16-year-old mental health agency helping Hispanics on St. Paul’s West Side, has closed because of financial problems.

The Star Tribune says funding for mental health clinics has decreased while the need for services increased, causing the La Familia to reach a breaking point:

“It comes to a point where you know you’re not going to be able to survive,” said Jose Santos Jr., executive director of the agency he co-founded with Roberto Aviña to provide services with mental health professionals who were bilingual and had a deep understanding of bicultural issues.

 Small nonprofits, particularly in the Hispanic community, face difficult times, the paper said, noting that Centro Legal, a legal service for Hispanic immigrants, closed in 2009; The City Inc., an advocacy agency, closed last month; La Escuelita, a Latino youth development nonprofit, is in trouble.

“We just can’t compete with the big boys,” Santos told the paper, when it comes to attracting grants and other funding sources. He said Medical Assistance and other government programs no longer cover the costs, and foundations have refocused their priorities.

Jon Pratt, executive director of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, told the paper that small nonprofits like La Familia have a hard time in this financial climate, as governments payments lag, causing cash flow problems.

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