Health Ambassador Program Partners with HPP to Bring Ambassadors to Vaccine sites

As vaccination efforts continue in San Mateo County with a focus on equity, the health ambassadors offer a warm smile and support to those who are waiting their turn in line, and those who have just been vaccinated. The Health Ambassador Program (HAP) that is housed under the Office of Diversity and Equity has partnered with Health Policy and Planning (HPP) to bring health ambassadors to vaccination sites. The Health Ambassadors are highly skilled community members who complete at least 5 mental health courses including the Parent Project, Mental Health First Aid, Wellness Recovery Action Plan and many others. This program is part of the community empowerment branch of ODE, and they serve to increase community awareness of services available in San Mateo County and connect individuals with support, help reduce stigma around mental health and substance use, and improve the ability of community members to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health and substance use challenges.

The Health Ambassadors are a vital resource, the COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for many reasons and because of the grief, financial loss and isolation we have seen a rise in anxiety and/or depressive disorders. Last July, 40% of US adults reported struggling with mental health or substance use. [1] Additionally, young adults, people of color, and essential workers, reported disproportionately worse mental health outcomes, increased substance use and suicidal ideation.[2] Access to resources is also an issue, communities of color have historically faced challenges accessing mental health resources. The Health Ambassadors are peers, and well-known members of their communities that know firsthand how essential it is to have access to mental health resources. Cyntia, who has helped with vaccination clinics in East Palo Alto and Belle Haven shares with us, “before the pandemic, people didn’t even want to accept materials that had mental health information on it. They would tell us ‘I don’t need that, I’m not crazy.’ But the pandemic has changed things, no one has turned away any of the materials we are giving out. I think people are realizing that we all need help sometimes, and that there is nothing to be embarrassed about.”

HAPs bring a wealth of knowledge to their work. Many of them are consumers of services or family members of someone that has experienced mental health or substance use challenges. Additionally, many of them are bilingual and enable us to increase our language capacity at the vaccination sites. They have also been able to hand out information about county wide resources for food insecurity, housing as well as financial resources. Amada, who has been a health ambassador for years stated that “even just asking people how they are doing makes all of the difference. There are some people that come to get a vaccine and are really scared of the symptoms they will experience. It helps to calm them when I can tell them about my own experience, and they can visually see that I am okay.” Also, “there has been so much sadness from unemployment, grief from losing loved ones as well as anxiety about getting sick in our community, but we are seeing hope at the end of all of this.”

Cyntia, Amada and Lourdes all became HAPs because their children were going through a difficult time and they needed more tools in order to be able to help them. “I am worried about the youth; I became a HAP to help my daughter when she suffered through mental health challenges and I fear that the youth are really suffering during this time.” Pediatric mental health related emergency department visits have increased for youth 5-11 and 12-17, 24% and 31% with youth of color and LGBTQ youth being at a heightened risk of suicidal ideation even before the pandemic.[3] Community members that are well informed about mental health and help break down stigma, and support people in accessing services are vital especially during this time. If you are interested in becoming a Health Ambassador and supporting your community more information can be found here.

[1] Mental Health, Substance Use and Suicidal Ideation during the COVID-19 Pandemic (

[2] The Implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health and Substance Use,largely%20stable%20since%20spring%202020.


Free access to a self Care app

This past year has affected all of us in different ways. But there’s one thing that keeps San Mateo County strong: a sense of community. That’s why Headspace and San Mateo County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services are working together to provide free resources that can help residents weather this storm. 

April is Stress Awareness Month –  a perfect time to learn about your stressors, educate yourself on the good and bad kinds of stress, and dedicate an extra few minutes a week to self-care.  Access meditations, sleep sounds, and movement exercises designed to help you care for your mind — all free on the Headspace app through September 14 2021.  

Sign up here, if you live, work or go to school in San Mateo County, all free through August 2021.

Stress AWareness Month – Download Free Headspace App


April is Stress Awareness Month: a perfect time to learn about your stressors, educate yourself on the good and bad kinds of stress, and dedicate an extra few minutes a week to self-care.  San Mateo County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services has partnered with Headspace to provide free resources to help residents cope with stresses brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.   

With the Headspace app you can access guided exercises, sleep sounds, meditations, videos, facts and tips to help you manage, understand, and react to stress. 

Sign up here, if you live, work or go to school in San Mateo County, all free through August 2021.

4th Community & COVID Town Hall

On behalf of the collaborators that brought you the “Race & COVID-19” Town Hall series in 2020, we’d like to invite you to our 4th Town Hall: “Community & Coronavirus: a year later” that will take place on Thursday, April 29th at 3pm. Together we’ve experienced so much in the past year, this event will be dedicated to acknowledging our collective challenges, growth and experiences. We will ask for your input on what supports are still needed and what are the priorities of our communities as we continue to respond to the pandemic.

As a result to the feedback we received during the previous Town Halls, Digital literacy trainings, resource guides, and needs assessments for some of our marginalized groups have been conducted and made available to communities throughout San Mateo County.

Join us to get an update on San Mateo County efforts and to hear from your fellow community members and leaders as we continue to work toward healing and recovery.

Please share this information widely, we look forward to a great dialogue.


Starvista’s New Crisis Center Website and Teen Text Line

StarVista’s Crisis Center offers multiple crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for residents in San Mateo County. The Crisis Center recently launched its new website, This online resource provides quick links and information about Crisis Center services, resources and news, and is the new home for its Teen Crisis Chat and the recently launched Teen Crisis Text Line.

Teen Text Line: 650-747-6463
Monday to Thursday, 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. PST
The new teen text line is a free, peer-to-peer service that can be accessed by texting 650-747-6463. Teens can chat anonymously with trained youth peer counselors under Crisis Center staff supervision about various topics. While mainly focused on crisis intervention and suicide prevention, teens can also talk about school stress, relationship issues, and mental health challenges.

Online Teen Chat: – Monday to Thursday, 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m PST
The online teen chat is a free, peer-to-peer service that is accessible from Teens can chat anonymously with trained youth peer counselors under Crisis Center staff supervision about various topics. While mainly focused on crisis intervention and suicide prevention, teens can also talk about school stress, relationship issues, and mental health challenges.

While these teen programs are intended to focus on youth ages 13 and up, no youth will be turned away on the basis of age. Learn more about StarVista’s Teen Crisis Services at

Medication ASsisted Treatment Support Line – Here to Help

The science is clear: addiction is a chronic disease that changes our brain and IS treatable with medication, behavioral therapies, and support.

Behavioral Health and Recovery Services’ Integrated MedicationAssisted Treatment (IMAT) Support Line is staffed by experienced IMAT case managers who provide informed and non-judgmental support, no matter where you are in the recovery journey.

They can help answer your questions about starting medication assisted treatment, insurance issues, treatment options, and other behavioral health services….or, call them if you just want to talk to someone who gets it. 

Current IMAT clients or anyone interested in IMAT can call:

IMAT Case Management Support Line
650. 573. 2735
9AM – 9PM, 7 days a week, even holidays

Dowload their flyer for more info. If you, or someone you love is having a medical or psychiatric crisis please dial 911.

Tony Hoffman 2021 AWard Nominations Due April 20

The Tony Hoffman Community Mental Health Services Award presented annually by the San Mateo County Mental Health and Substance Abuse Recovery Commission recognizes individuals, professionals, businesses, and the media in San Mateo County who have made an extraordinary difference in the lives of people with mental illness and the communities in which they live.

Recognition is given for public education or advocacy to promote mental health awareness and needs or to address stigma; public education and services to provide housing and employment for persons with mental illness; creation of new and innovative programs or community support activities; recognition of fundraising for mental health activities or long-term financial support to mental health programs; or working for new mental health legislation.

They also honor mental health consumers who, in their journey of recovery, are able to give back to their peers or the community. Awards are presented each May during Mental Health Month.

To nominate someone, download and submit the nomination form by April 20, 2021

CAlifornia COVID-19 Rent Relief program launches

The CA COVID-19 Rent Relief program has been officially launched!  Eligibility information and applications can be found at or by calling 833-430-2122.  Renters and landlords who have experienced a financial hardship due to COVID-19, have past due rent or utilities, and have a household income that is not more than 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI), may be eligible to receive financial assistance.  

If you need assistance with the application, reach out to one of San Mateo County’s Core Service Agencies.

See the resources and fliers below for more information:

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