Pride Center MHSA Project Outcomes

The San Mateo County Pride Center opened it’s doors in July 2016 as a Mental Health ServicesAct (MHSA) Innovation (INN)-approved five-year pilot project. Since then, the Pride Center has expanded the network of services available to the LGBTQ+ community, promoted visibility and belonging, and filled gaps in culturally responsive mental health treatment services.

According to the San Mateo County LGBTQ Commission’s 2018 countywide survey of 546 LGBTQ+ residents and employees, fewer than half (43%) of adult respondents felt that their mental health care provider had the expertise to care for their needs. Among LGBTQ+ youth who responded to the survey, three-quarters (74%)
reported that they had considered harming themselves in the past 12 months, and two-thirds (65%) did not know where to access LGBTQ+ friendly health care.

The MHSA INN component allows counties to introduce and evaluate mental health approaches that have not been tried elsewhere, to develop new best practices. The San Mateo County Pride Center was developed as an INN project since the U.S. has no other model of a coordinated approach across mental health, social, and psychoeducational services for the LGBTQ+ community.

The Pride Center offers services in three components:

  1. Social and Community Activities: outreaches, engages, reduces isolation, educates, and provides support to high-risk LGBTQ+ individuals through peer-based models of wellness and recovery that include educational and stigma reduction activities.
  2. Clinical Services: provides mental health services focusing on individuals at high risk of, or with moderate to severe, mental health challenges.
  3. Resource Services and Training: serves as a hub for LGBTQ+ resources. Hosts trainings and events related to sexual orientation and gender identity, and on providing culturally affirmative services.

In FY 2020-21 alone:
• 3,000+ participants served through clinical, social, training, and drop-in services
• 169 unique individuals received clinical services
• 2,700 hours of clinical services were delivered
• 359 community members served across 10 different peer support groups
• 300+ LGBTQ+ older adults were regularly contacted via emails, calls, and support groups

An independent consultant recently evaluated the Pride Center’s outcomes over the past five years. The findings
in the San Mateo County Pride Center Final Evaluation Report show that the intended outcomes operating as a
collaborative model, increasing access to services, and contributing to positive clinical outcomes for LGBTQ+
individuals were achieved. Following is a brief summary:

Developed Protective Factors: The existence of a physical location dramatically increased visibility and
created a safe space for LGBTQ+ community members. The Center created a sense of community and
belonging, and its mere existence served as a protective factor against negative mental health outcomes. “Just
knowing [the Center] is here [is important]…Just having it here and being in the news, seeing the flags…it’s that
visibility, creating a norm,” said an adult participant.

  1. Increased Clinical Service Capacity: Built capacity of existing services to serve the LGBTQ+ community;
    introduced the use of SOGIE (sexual orientation, gender identity and expression) questions in the county at large and provided trainings/workshops on gender and sexuality; collaborated with partners and provided consultation.
  2. Improved Clinical Outcomes: Provided case management and individual therapy to members with mental health challenges. On average, while receiving clinical services, participants experienced improvements in their overall mental health, including depression, anxiety, trauma, and family issues.

With the conclusion of the INN pilot project, the Pride Center remains funded by the MHSA and seeks public
and private funding for long-term sustainability and growth. BHRS remains committed to its efforts to be a safe and welcoming space, particularly for marginalized and low-income individuals. The broader hope is that the Pride Center’s success will inspire similar efforts across the state.
BHRS and Pride Center staff will share the lessons learned with the California Behavioral Health Director’s Association (CBHDA) Governing Board and disseminate a Best Practice Toolkit intended to support other cities, counties, and regions that wish to start a collaborative multi-service center for the LGBTQ+ community.

Written by Doris Estremera (she/her), Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) Manager