Supporting Healthy Families and Building Stronger Communities

The Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE) had the honor of graduating two Health Ambassadors, Maria Valencia Trinidad Hernandez and Alexi Rosales, during the monthly Mental Health and Substance Abuse Recovery Commission on November 1st.  They each shared with the group their heartfelt personal stories and dedication to help support healthy families and build stronger communities.


Left to right: David Young (Director of BHRS), Maria Valencia Trinidad Hernandez (HAP graduate), Alexi Rosales (HAP graduate), Jei Africa (Director of ODE)

The Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE) started the Health Ambassador Program (HAP) in 2014.  HAP was first created per the request of parents subsequent to graduating the Parent Project program. After their 12-week course  spent sharing their stories, learning new parenting skills, and supporting one another, the graduates expressed wanting to continue learning about mental illness and staying  connected with each other, their neighbors and community members.

With the support of BHRS, ODE compiled a list of trainings and workshops offered directly through ODE and other community based organizations in San Mateo County.  The trainings and workshops are categorized in the 3 following areas with the goal of supporting healthy families and building stronger communities:

  • Information on Mental Illness: National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Family to Family, NAMI Basics, Mental Health First Aid (Adult and Youth curriculum), Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training
  • Personal Wellness and Recovery: Wellness and Recovery Action Plan, Photo Voice Project, Digital Storytelling, Lived Experience Academy, Parent Project
  • Stigma Reduction: Stigma Free San Mateo

The trainings are open to all San Mateo County residents and once someone completes 5 trainings/workshops, we acknowledge their time and energy commitment by honoring them as Health Ambassador Graduates.  Graduates are given support, encouragement, and opportunities to share their personal stories and resources with friends, family and the larger community at county resource fairs, health fairs, and school events.

Since 2014, HAP has graduated 25 Health Ambassadors who have the capacity to speak English, monolingual Spanish, or bilingual English and Spanish.  Some Health Ambassadors have moved on to become facilitators for ODE’s community education programs as well as Peer Support Workers & Family Partners for San Mateo County BHRS and other community based organizations.

To learn more about ODE and HAP, visit or email Nancy Chen at

Written by Nancy Chen, ODE Community Educations Programs