Hunting Park: Behavioral Health Care Center Offers Treatment Without Stigma

Multicultural Wellness Center
People frequently moved in and out of the busy Multicultural Wellness Center.
Belgica Santo De La Cruz
Belgica Santos De La Cruz stood outside the Multicultural Wellness Center for a conversation.

The inside of the Multicultural Wellness Center feels more like a well-worn home than the sterile atmosphere associated with most medical centers.

Tall, brightly colored resting chairs are lined up in front of a large high-definition TV in one room, providing a space for patients to relax.

Inside another entrance is a small waiting room where patients and employees pair off in bilingual conversations. The door swings open and closed every other moment as people walk in and out.

The bustling and warm atmosphere matches the core philosophy of the mental health clinic, which was instilled by Clinical Director Blegica Santos De La Cruz and her husband when they opened the center three years ago.

“I wanted to give the community an area where they feel welcome and it’s a friendly environment,” De La Cruz said. Quality Coordinator Brendan Duffey translated for De La Cruz, who is from the Dominican Republic and does not speak English. “A lot of the [other] services are cold and not welcoming. We wanted more of a family-like atmosphere.”

The center, located at 120 W. Wyoming Ave., provides health care for psychiatric, psychological and behavioral problems. A staff of 30 therapists and one psychologist provide therapy sessions for anyone suffering from mental illness.

Since opening, the center has seen a marked improvement in the immediate area surrounding the building.

“One thing I noticed was there were people just wandering around without direction or clean clothes on their back,” De La Cruz said. “Some of them are our patients now and we have seen the transformation. They’ve been in a hole and they have come around and been able to get their lives together.”

Multicultural Wellness Center
People frequently moved in and out of the busy Multicultural Wellness Center.

When the center first opened, it only occupied one side and one floor of the building. Now the offices inhabit the entire building and Duffey said there are plans to build a patio in the backyard to be used as a recreational space.

Duffey said he wants every person to feel welcome to the service they provide, no matter what situation they are in or where they come from.

Even patients who cannot afford services are still given help.

“We are not discriminatory as to whether you can pay,” Duffey said. “Even if you are not approved of Medicare or other program, we will treat them and try to help them get approved. It doesn’t matter, we just want them to get the help.”

One patient, Cynthia, said that the center has helped her overcome some of her own mental distress after moving to Philadelphia from Puerto Rico by showing her she is not alone.

“It’s so good [to be here],” Cynthia said. “You keep up this fear sometimes and that fear can be bad. Here you see other people feel the same way. Just to know other people [feel this way] is good. It’s a community.”

There is often a stigma surrounding mental health problems that Duffey said he hopes most patients can overcome. He said he believes a lot of the mental issues people deal with come from the situations they are involved in.

“Some people think imbalance is a chemical thing, but imbalance happens because of something that goes on in their lives,” Duffey said. “And we try and incorporate everything that’s going on and help them fix it.”

“If you are in the clinic, you are in a situation,” Duffey said. “It’s not that you’re depressed or whatever it is [that you’re dealing with], it’s that you need help. It’s that idea, empathy, just bringing some compassion to the therapy session.”

If you need behavioral health treatment, the Multicultural Wellness Center can be contacted at 215-324-8192.

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