Category Archives: Behavioral Health and Recovery Services

6/10 – SMC Pride Parade and Pride Celebration

San Mateo County PRIDE Parade and Pride Celebration is 11 days away!

We hope you can join us on Saturday June 10th for the San Mateo County (SMC) Pride Parade, and after the parade come over to the SMC Pride celebration and celebrate Pride with us!! 

Friendly Reminder, if you are interested in having a contingent at the 1st Annual SMC Pride Parade, registration is currently open!! The SMC Pride Parade registration deadline is Friday June 2nd. Don’t miss out on this wonderful opportunity to be a part of history and participate in the San Mateo County 1st Annual Pride Parade!

The 1st Annual SMC Pride Parade will be Saturday June 10th from 10am-11am, starting on 2nd B street and ending at San Mateo Central Park! The SMC Pride Celebration will be Saturday June 10th from 11am-5pm at San Mateo Central Park.

Registration to the Pride Parade is currently OPEN but will close at the end of the day on June 2nd.
Register Your contingent today using the link below.

Let’s show up and show support in the first San Mateo County Pride Parade!!

For more info visit


6/17- 14th Annual Our Family, Our Future

Please join us on June 17 for the 14th Annual Our Family, Our Future event. This is a free and open-to-the-public event to promote elder care, prevent elder abuse and address Asian hate attacks. The event is hosted by Alliance for Community Empowerment in collaboration with Positive Filipino, Philippines News Today, SMC BHRS, The Philippine Consulate General in SF, and the City of South San Francisco.  Please share with our partners and communities.

6/16 – 2023 Juneteenth Celebration: Discovering- Recovering Our Roots

The African American Community Initiative (AACI) and Voices of Recovery San Mateo County (VORSMC) are proud to co-host our second Juneteenth Celebration on Friday, June 16, 2023.

The theme of this year’s Celebration is: Discovering-Recovering Our Roots:  The Continued Journey of Black Struggle

The event will be held in-person and streamed via Facebook Live and Zoom.  Register for the event via the QR Code on the flyer or this link: AACI BLACK HISTORY MONTH CELEBRATION ( 

As our country’s newest National Holiday, Juneteenth acknowledges and celebrates the final end of institutional slavery in the United States.

This year’s event promises to be inspirational, fun and educational, with a program that includes presentations from San Mateo County Supervisor Noelia Corzo, a Proclamation presented by City of East Palo Alto Mayor Lisa Gauthier, African drumming and storytelling, a panel discussion, cultural performances, health checks (blood pressure and glucose), a photo booth, music and dinner.

Please share this event with your networks.

Extraordinary Everyday Heroes Look Like Me, and You

The May 23, 2023’s Board of Supervisors meeting was full of Behavioral Health and Recovery Services (BHRS) representation, including multiple appearances by our Health Equity Initiatives (HEI’s) across the agenda to spotlight Proclamations for:

As a new Senior Community Program Specialist in the County, there were breath-taking moments that gave me hope in our democracy by seeing everyday heroes in action—and they look like me, and you!

Beginning with an act of solidarity, Supervisor Ray Mueller addressed a public comment that conflated COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus” by holding accountability immediately and centering all of our humanity, including the community member who said it. As the meeting went on, HEI Chinese Health Initiative co-chair Alyson Suzuki, offered a concise, authentic message leveraging her perspective as an Asian American parent. Simply put, she said “words matter,” to further demonstrate the impact of the racist remark. It was a chilling moment.

Notably, another HEI Pride Initiative co-chair Dana Johnson (they/them), shared two public comments as someone who lives an intersectional life as a Black transgender non-binary activist. They called specifically for the Board to consider actions that would move beyond Proclamations.

Co-presenting with the BHRS Director Dr. Jei Africa, my teammate and Suicide Prevention Program Coordinator and Pacific Islander Initiative member Twila Dependahl stood in her power as she spoke of the hard work that HEI’s are doing in our communities. The preparation for this presentation took immense collaborative efforts with Community Health Planner Sylvia Tang generously sharing her wisdom, leadership, and support that was behind the scene yet still so critical.

On the other side of the room, there were beautiful exchanges of support and encouragement. For example, with genuine care and joy, Supervisor David Canepa elevated another HEI Filipino Mental Health Initiative co-chair Stephanie Balon, who embodies kapwa (Tagalog for “togetherness/shared self”). Throughout the meeting, Supervisor Noelia Corzo offered gratitude to community members for sharing their stories.

Shortly afterwards, I talked with another HEI African American Community Initiative co-chair, Delicia “Dee” Pennix who attended the meeting in person for the Juneteenth Proclamation and we shared mutual feelings of excitement for our work, for the connections we are making, and for what’s ahead in our communities.

We are all extraordinary, everyday heroes.

You can learn how you can get involved with our Health Equity Initiative Co-Chairs by visiting

Written by Kayla Tolentino (she/her), BHRS Office of Diversity & Equity

Understand Intersectionality and Mental Health | #Share4MH

💭 Did you know? Communities of color with mental health conditions are less likely to receive mental health services than their white counterparts. Swipe through for some fast facts. 

When discussing mental health, we need to inform from an equity lens so that all our communities can thrive. Keep the conversation going, and share one of your cultural wellness practices.  

To access the graphics in English and Spanish visit our social media page here.

Visit to learn more and to get involved.

For our full list of free and public events and mental health resources, visit

Congratulations 2023 Tony Hoffman Award Recipients!

Top Row: Katelyn C., Chris R., Frieda E., Hudson F., Paul N., Jacki R. Leticia B., Jean P., Chelsea B., Jeff E.,
Middle Row: Fatima O., Jani D., Nicholas M., Leslie D., Ivette H., Regina M., Dr. Lovella C., Ziomara O.,
Bottom Row: John B., Charlotte R.

The Tony Hoffman Community Mental Health Services Award recognizes individuals, professionals, businesses, and media who have made an extraordinary difference in the lives of individuals living with mental health challenges and the communities in which they live. This year’s recipients included a diverse group of individuals representing BHRS programs and staff, partner agencies, media outlets, peers and youth leaders. The Board of Supervisors recognized and honored each recipient of the Tony Hoffman Community Mental Health Service Award for making an extraordinary difference in the lives of people with mental health challenges and the San Mateo County community.

More photos from the event here.

1. BHRS Prenatal-to-Three Program staff strive to provide trauma-informed care and resources that improve infant, children and family overall quality of life who often experience stressors associated with financial difficulties, difficult parenting issues, trauma, domestic violence, mental health disorders, and drug and alcohol issues. Regina Moreno, Clinical Services Manager, Dr. Lovella Caluya-Diaz, Adult Psychiatrist, and Ivette Huerta, Unit Supervisor accepted the award on behalf of the program team.

2. Charlotte Rosario is a student in San Mateo who organized an open-mic event at San Mateo Central Park after losing Felipe, an Aragon High School student, to suicide. She is the founder of the community photobooth, a group of young photographers and filmmakers that raise funds for film projects that support mental health. Charlotte is also a member of the Behavioral Health Commission Youth Committee, Youth Action Board.

“When I was 12 years old, I lost my dad to suicide… the more I say it the stronger I get… through this journey my mom has taught me that the way to get through these challenges is by helping others”

– Charlotte R.

3. Fatima Olivares is a BHRS Mental Health Counselor who works with the Homeless Outreach program. She supported the Half Moon Bay community after the tragedy earlier this year. She was part of the Crisis Response Team and spent countless hours assisting families whose primary language is Spanish and who were in need of services and assistance.

Read more

It’s AANHPI Month! Here are Resources and Ways to Celebrate

As we settle into this month of May, we recognize several celebrations that are important to us, our work, and our communities: Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Month and Mental Health Month (MHM)!

At BHRS Office of Diversity and Equity, we are working hard to increase the visibility of our AANHPI communities and destigmatize mental health. Our AANHPI communities make up over 30% of our County, and have invaluably contributed to the vibrancy of neighborhoods. From being able to taste delicious food spreads of pancit and haupia, and practicing resilient wellness remedies passed on from generation to generation, it is a special time to lift up our AANHPI communities, friends, and family members.

In that spirit, we have two EVENTS where you can honor our diversity:

  • Sat, 5/20- A Wellness Gathering, hosted by Pacific Islander Initiative and the Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center at Sneath Lane Cultural Center in San Bruno. Please consider joining us and sharing this opportunity with those we serve.  The event will be a wonderful opportunity to connect with our community, obtain resources, complete health screenings and COVID vaccines and boosters, and enjoy delicious food and fun raffles.
  • Tues, 5/23- AANHPI Month Proclamation, feel free to join us at the Board of Supervisors Meeting, starting at 9am. Zoom link will be available at County of San Mateo – Calendar (

You can also dig deeper into an abundance of RESOURCES to learn more at FAPAC – AAPI Resources and FYI: Weekly Health Resources for May 3, 2023 ( And don’t forget to spread the word, or better yet, join us in of all our numerous SMC Mental Health Month activities which can be found at Mental Health Month – San Mateo County Health (!

Beyond this month, we warmly invite you to join our Health Equity Initiatives that specifically lift up our AANHPI communities:

Chinese Health InitiativeFirst Friday of the month1:30-3pm
Pacific Islander InitiativeFirst Tuesday of the month11am-1pm
Filipino Mental Health InitiativeThird Thursday of the month5-6:30pm

Full schedule of our 9 Health Equity Initiatives can be found here!

We extend these opportunities as invitations for you to join us as we lift up our AANHPI communities and reduce the barriers to addressing mental health!

In community,

Your ODE Team

Co-written by Kayla Tolentino (she/her) & Maria Lorente-Foresti (she/her)

Meet Our New Chinese Health Initiative Co-Chairs!

The Chinese Health Initiative (CHI) welcomes Jessie Ren and Alyson Suzuki as their new co-chairs. The Chinese Health Initiative, created by Behavioral Health & Recovery Services’ Office of Diversity & Equity, was created in 2007 as a way to join people together who are interested in working to improve the health and well being of our Chinese community. Together, they advocate for culturally appropriate services, educate the community about different health issues and services available, and work with the community to increase outreach.

About the Co-Chairs:

Jessie Ren (she/her) grew up in China and came to the Bay Area in 2003. She has been working with the San Mateo County Department of Health as a Benefit Analyst for the past 11 years and has helped many families enroll in a multitude of government health programs. Jessie is passionate about bringing resources and her professional knowledge to those in need, more specifically, vulnerable as well as underserved populations. She is also a Certified English and Mandarin Medical Interpreter. Jessie’s work deeply involves her in the Chinese community where having the good fortune of being able to speak Mandarin, Shanghainese and Cantonese is helpful. She also enjoys working with other community leaders to organize and facilitate community events. Past successful events include an annual Chinese New Year Gala serving the peninsula, Health Insurance & Immigration Forum, Bay Area Ballroom Club dance parties, as well as an Anti-Asian Hate Rally in San Jose. 

For leisure, Jessie loves dancing, musicals, meditation and traveling with her family.  She enjoy learning about different cultures and trying all types of food, and her dream is to travel around the world one day. 

As a longtime member of Chinese Health Initiative (CHI), it will be her honor and privilege to serve as a Co-Chair. Jessie looks forward to helping raise mental health awareness and to improve the well-being of our Chinese community.

Alyson Suzuki (she/her) is from New York City (NYC) and worked to serve low-income families in the greater NYC area before moving to the Bay Area in 2000.  Her work focuses on providing educational opportunities and culturally appropriate support to immigrant and low-income families and children.  She has over 25 years of experience leading complex organizations, advocating for systemic change and delivering quality services to underserved communities.  In addition to her professional experience, Alyson has also served on the boards of the YMCA of San Francisco and Marin, and Pets Are Wonderful Support (PAWS). She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s in Strategic Human Resources Management.  Alyson was a recipient and honoree of the California Governor’s Scholarship for Women in Public Service, a graduate of the Redwood City- San Mateo County Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Program, a member of the Asian Pacific American Leadership Institute and the San Mateo County API Caucus.  

Alyson is the Founder and CEO of Unitedly. Unitedly’s mission is to ensure that Asian families and communities have equitable access to resources and opportunities to thrive. Raised in a low-income household by Chinese immigrant parents, Alyson knows first-hand the importance of resources, access and community support.  Through her experiences, Alyson understands the impact of societal inequities and strongly believes in enabling all families to have a voice.  As the founder of Unitedly, Alyson’s vision is to create a central agency dedicated to supporting underserved families, so that they have equal opportunities to be successful.

Learn more about Chinese Health Initiative at

BHRS Bids Farewell to Alejandra Siroka and Wishes Success On Her Next Chapter

On Thursday, April 27th, 2023, Behavioral Health and Recovery Services (BHRS)hosted the all-staff mandatory Working Effectively with Limited English Proficient Clients & Interpreters in the Behavioral Health Setting training in person for the first time in 3 years! This learning opportunity is integral in engaging workforce members in the current utilization, needs, and importance of interpretation services offered by BHRS. Our language access services assist in reducing the risk of misunderstanding and misdiagnosis and supporting the building of a strong therapeutic alliance with those we serve.

This training was also the last training facilitated by our longtime partner and collaborator Alejandra Siroka of Language Alchemy. Alejandra has worked with BHRS since 2009 to advance language access services by supporting our staff in working with diverse clients and utilizing interpretation services appropriately with a focus on cultural humility. Her work has been essential in our advancement of Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS), shaping our BHRS culture to always strive for more equitable services and practices. In addition to providing our staff with practical tools, scenarios, and a historical perspective on the use of interpreters, Alejandra helped us to look deeper into the meaning of culture and how it shapes our communication styles and thought patterns. Thanks to her collaboration with the BHRS Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE), this training was continuously tailored and focused on the specific needs and demographics of San Mateo County. Additionally, in 2018, she supported ODE with the creation of training videos that are the first of their kind nationally and exemplify the use of interpreters specifically in behavioral health settings. While we’re incredibly sad to lose Alejandra as a facilitator, we’re so excited for the next chapter in her journey. Alejandra is shifting to support broader communication needs via hosting a podcast and working on a book that will be published in 2024 focused on compassionate communication!

For BHRS, this training will continue to be offered twice a year and required as part of our cultural competence trainings. Our next training is expected to be offered in Fall 2023; more information will be shared as specifics are confirmed.

Please join us in wishing her much success in her future endeavors!

To learn more about Alejandra’s work and podcast, please visit

For more information on Language Access Services click here or contact Frances Lobos at

Written by Frances Lobos, Community Health Planner at BHRS Office of Diversity & Equity

Heart & Soul: What’s New in May

Please Join Us for Wellness This Week!

Heart & Soul offers In-Person and Virtual community wellness activities, support groups, and events in Burlingame, Daly City, and San Mateo. Activities are free of charge and are open to all residents of San Mateo County. For information & updates, visit

Community Drop-In Center Location: 1633 Old Bayshore Hwy, Suite 258,Burlingame, CA 94010  
Please Join Heart & Soul in May to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month 2023 and to honor Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month.

New this Month…
Every Monday: Virtual Drop-In Hours 4:00 – 6:00 pm
Tuesday, May 23: New WRAP Support Virtual Group 3:30 – 5:00 pm
Every Wednesday: Virtual Drop-In Hours 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Wednesday, May 17: Open House 3:00 – 6:00 pm Highlighting speakers from the AAPI Community with lived experience of mental health challenges
Every Thursday: Total Wellness Online 11:00 am
Friday, May 19: New Online Group “Virtual Open House” 7:00 pm

Click Here for Printable PDF of Weekly Schedule with Zoom Links
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