Category Archives: Health Ambassador Program

Empowering Youth to be Change Agents

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HAP-Y Cohort

The Health Ambassador Program for Youth (HAP-Y) is an innovative and community-developed program delivered by StarVista. It is designed for youth ages 16 to 24 who are interested in advocating for communities that have been touched by mental health challenges, raising awareness about mental wellness and increasing access to mental health services. The program is funded by innovation funds through the Mental Health Services Act, which are designed to engage individuals, families and communities to be active change agents regarding wellness, particularly behavioral health. The program is managed by BHRS’ Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE), whose primary focus is reaching and engaging vulnerable families and communities in San Mateo.  

The participants of the program, most whom have lived experience with mental health challenges, participate in a 14-week training program, creating a personal Wellness Recovery Action, and learning about common mental health challenges and the principles of suicide prevention.

HAP-Y Cohort

After completing the trainings, HAP-Y graduates are encouraged to conduct community presentations to start conversations and increase knowledge about mental health and community supports available. In the first year of HAP-Y, 20 youth successfully completed the program. They have already reached an audience of over 300 through classroom-based presentations. Preliminary evaluations suggest an increase of over 30 percent in knowledge of where to seek supports and services for mental health issues.

HAP-Y has seen success, not only in reaching an audience, but in providing a sense of community for participants. HAP-Y graduates said the group provided a welcoming and loving environment, where they could have real conversations about topics that they are often unable to have with their peers.

As the program enters its second year, there is an additional focus on continuing to engage past participants and building on their skills and passions. If you are interested in learning more about the program, please contact hapy@star-vista.org.

The next 14-week HAP-Y training will start on May 15th and will be hosted in Half Moon Bay. Please share this information with any youth you think may be interested in participating in this program. 

Co-written by Narges Dillon, Brenda Nunez & Islam Hassanein, StarVista and Nancy Chen, ODE

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.

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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.

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