I’m Jeff Essex, El Centro’s new Executive Director. I came on board May 1st, of this year, in the middle of a global pandemic, and at the beginning of a national movement demanding the end to systemic racism. There is nothing like jumping in head first! As anyone in recovery will tell you, change is never a welcome thing; always preceded by fear and anxiety. Not just for the person arriving to the leadership position, but the existing team is often anxious about changes in their daily lives. Soon after I arrived, we all found our rhythm and got to work in a spirit of collaboration rarely seen.
Taking the helm of an agency with a 26 year history of excellence, smack dab in the middle of turbulent times, can be intimidating. However, I was honored to have the complete support of not only the Board of Directors, but the entire staff! The El Centro Team made it possible for us to accomplish so much in a very short period of time. So what have we been up to in the last 5 months? Let’s take a look:
- We have updated El Centro’s Human Resources to bring the agency current with 21st century policy, tools, and procedures.
- We have deployed a new state of the art phone and data system.
- We have completely re-branded El Centro with a new logo, Facebook page, and Website.
- We have restructured the management team to ensure the agency has quality scalability in the years to come.
- We have renewed collaboration with other agencies in San Mateo County. Making those partnerships key to our mutual success.
- We have secured the revenue needed to ensure El Centro is operating in the black, and has a surplus to carry into the next fiscal year.
- We have completely outfitted the agency with PPE to ensure we can continue to provide services to clients in the current Covid-19 environment.
- We have started to go “into the field” to provide outreach and connections to those who are homeless, or living in the farming communities on San Mateo County’s Coast.
- We have put into place a new QA process to ensure our stakeholders get the continued high quality service they need.
It’s a lot, right? We’re far from done. We are in the process of developing a new client information database, as part of creating an agency that is able to expand with the needs of the County. And, we are actively seeking out new revenue streams to ensure El Centro stays fiscally sound in the years to come. At this point, we slow things down just a tad to ensure the new processes are taking hold and nothing slips through the cracks (and to take a breath).
There is one thing that will never change for El Centro, a core belief that drew me here: El Centro will never deny service to someone who can’t pay. Everyone deserves recovery! And, everyone deserves dignity in the pursuit of a better life. That’s why we have laid the foundation for our future with a sense of urgency. Drug addiction and other destructive behaviors are more prevalent than ever before. Overdose death rates are skyrocketing. This pandemic has turned our world upside down. We’re all scared. Those without recovery rely on long established harmful behavior to process their stress. We prepare now, so that we are here when the addict who is suffering is ready for a change.
I want to take a moment to address the national demand for an end to systemic racism. El Centro de Libertad was founded on the premise that people from all cultures will have access to recovery; this core belief has never, and will never, change. We believe systemic racism is very real, and that it's been a part of our national identity since its inception.
So the question for us is simple: What can we do? We stay true to our core beliefs. We are a multi-cultural agency providing services to everyone regardless of race, gender, identity, religion, or any other avenue in which people have historically been excluded from opportunity. For those of us who are not people of color, we will listen and acknowledge our privilege. After all, how can the nation heal if there isn’t a willingness to listen and be teachable? We must always recognize our responsibility in making our community a better place for everyone, not just those who look like us. To that end, we recognize that black lives matter. And, that brown lives matter. And we humbly accept our responsibility as agents of change.