Category Archives: Health Equity Initiatives

Pride Center’s 5 Year Anniversary Celebration

Please join us on Thursday, June 30 from 6 pm – 8 pm PST, as we virtually celebrate the San Mateo County Pride Center’s 5- year anniversary milestone event. We will hear from county leaders, community partners, some of our founding team members, and YOU about the impact the Pride Center has made. The celebration will be emceed by none other than Jesus U Bettawork and feature performances by the ever-popular Drag King troupe the Rebel Kings!

Juneteenth Celebration – June 17

Please join us for our 2nd Annual Juneteenth Celebration “Freedom and Fatherhood” as we walk through the history of free slaves and a panel discussion of the generational impact on today’s fathers.  

This event is hosted by Voices of Recovery in collaboration with the Behavioral Health and Recovery Services’ African American Community and Spirituality Initiatives.  

This is a virtual event.  Please register in advance at: https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZAtd-6vpzstHdaNpjF5uUO9hQmhKF_6YXC4  

Once registered, you will receive a confirmation email with information to join the event.  

Download the flyer.

10th Annual Pride Celebration – June 11

This year’s San Mateo County Pride celebration will take place on Saturday, June 11th, from 11 am to 5 pm at San Mateo Central Park and will have us dancing to amazing musical groups and the tunes of DJ China G. while enjoying the numerous booths filled with resources, support, and information. Also, get ready for our spectacular MC, Jesús U. BettaWork, voted Best Comic by the Bay Area Reporter’s annual Besties Awards in 2018 and 2020. However, that’s not all, this year’s event will hold a children’s space, a space for elders, food trucks, and speakers who have supported the LGBTQ+ community.

The PRIDE Celebration is proud to promote health and wellness among the LGBTQ+ Community, build a sense of community, provide information about behavioral health services, help individuals in marginalized communities seeking services, and provide a free LGBTQ+ positive, sober environment for San Mateo County. We invite you and your family and friends to this year’s event, where we are sure you will have a day filled with smiles, music, laughter, and connection. 

More info at www.SMCPRIDECelebration.com.

Happy AAPI Heritage Month: Updates from the Pacific Islander Initiative

PII Co-Chair, Brittany Afu

This year, BHRS ODE’s Health Equity Initiative, Pacific Islander Initiative (PII) welcomes a returning co-chair, Brittany Afu, who is currently working with long-time partner, Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center. Luci Latu and Brittany have been focusing on rebuilding past partnerships and cultivating new ones to strengthen PII’s membership base.

Some of the initiative’s focus this year has been on COVID outreach – raising awareness around COVID testing, vaccines and linking families to COVID relief programs and services. Other focuses include outreaching for partner events and community classes, sharing information about services and completing community presentations to raise awareness on critical issues affecting the PII community.

Recently, the PII co-chairs presented to a class at UC Berkeley discussing Pacific Islander health disparities and how the initiative and other partnering agencies are developing strategies to address community needs. It is an ongoing effort, and we hope to make community impacts by filling future Parent Project courses, hosting Mental Health First Aid trainings and getting more families connected to needed care.

Blog written by Brittany Afu
Co-Chair of Pacific Islander Initiative of San Mateo County, 


To learn more about Pacific Islander Initiative and other health equity initiatives, visit SMCHealth.org/HEI.

The Health Equity Initiatives are funded through BHRS’ Office of Diversity and Equity. For more information click here.

To learn more about Pacific Islander Initiative, visit smchealth.org/pacific-islander-initiative.

Kwentuhan: Y(Our) Story Matters: You heal. I heal. We heal. 

Panel from Equity Through Art Series: Kwentuhan on 3/31/22

Kwentuhan in Tagalog,  translates to “storytelling.” By exploring our personal and collective narratives we can find ways to deepen our connection to Self, & others, including our ancestors (seen and unseen). Research has shown that the practice of storytelling, whether you are sharing or witnessing, can offer a pathway to healing. The Equity Through Art Series webinar: “Filipinx Kwentuhan” on March 31st embodied that relational experience for me, as I spoke my truth as a panelist, as well as witnessing the soulfully moving & resilient stories shared by my fellow kapatids (siblings) on the panel. As a 2nd generation Pinay-American, this cultural tradition of kwentuhan has served as a wisdom transfer, and ancestral healing tool in my family and community.  

This healing arts practice is at the heart of the newly founded Kapwa Kultural Center/Kafé in Daly City (a state-funded project by the Mental Health Services Act Innovation Funding) that, in collaboration with Daly City Partnership & Daly City Youth Health Center, the Filipino Mental Health Initiative of San Mateo County has developed to honor our Filipina/o/x lineage and culture through preserving our individual and collective narratives. Expected to officially launch late 2022 to mid-2023, the center/café will offer a welcoming, culturally affirming, healing space to access an array of mental health & wellness services and support—as well as a home for kwentuhan: a place to talk story, grab a Filipino-inspired drink, and merienda (afternoon snacks). Please stay tuned for more updates on our progress. If you are interested in getting involved and/or learning more about this historical North San Mateo County landmark development, please feel free to contact us at fmhismc@gmail.com or visit us at fmhi-smc.org. 

Blog written by Stephanie Balon, MA, AMFT 
Co-Chair of Filipino Mental Health Initiative of San Mateo County, 
Co-Founder/Senior Director of Kapwa Kultural Center/Kafe in Daly City 


Missed the event? You can find the full recording here.

To learn more about Filipino Mental Health Initiative and other health equity initiatives, visit SMCHealth.org/HEI.

The Health Equity Initiatives are funded through BHRS’ Office of Diversity and Equity. For more information click here.

AACI Black History Month Event | Thank you and Highlights

The African American Community Initiative (AACI) proudly hosted their annual Black History Month Program on Saturday, February 26, 2022. The audience was greeted with a musical interlude by The Glide Ensemble singing “Say Their Names” chanting “Black lives matter- we matter.” This poignant song was followed by Dana Johnson (they/them), Pride Initiative Co-Chair, honoring our ancestors by reciting the Sankofa African Ancestral acknowledgement. Lee Harrison (he/him), AACI Co-Chair, gave an introduction to the national theme for Black History Month: Black Health and Wellness.

Doctoral student from Palo Alto University and AACI intern, Chika Ofodu (she/they) gave a well received presentation on Healing Centered Engagement (HEC), a framework for engaging with youth of color that embraces a holistic and strength- based approach to trauma that involves culture, spirituality, civic action, and collective healing.

Dr. Kim Rhoads (she/her) told us that the highest rate of COVID infection and deaths are still occurring in Black and Latino communities. Social determinants drive these disparities that are common among all other diseases. Although the total numbers of people with COVID has declined, Dr Rhoads emphasised that Black and Brown communites need to continue to follow precautionary guidelines to reduce our high infection rates:

  • Masking matters: It is most important to block the aerosol spread from the mouth and nose.
  • Protect yourself by getting vaccinated despite community conspiracy theories to the contrary.
  • Omicron is a variant of COVID, there will likely be new variants.

We must act accordingly to protect ourselves from this airborne disease.

Lastly, a cultural cooking demonstration of a Healthy Gumbo recipe was offered by Chef Opal of Daly City. Through-out the event there were presentation polls and raffles. A Black History Trivia Game and raffle ended the day on a high note. All event raffles were funded by the SMC BHRS’ Office of Diversity and Equity.

Written by Pamela Ward (she/her), African American Community Initiative Co-Chair

March 31: Filipinx Kwentuhan: Equity through Art Webinar

When: March 31st 6pm-7pm

Registration: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZEsce2hrD4vGNcPA4inP9HQmIqwFfTt-0_F

Description: Every culture has a storytelling tradition. In the Filipinx diaspora, kwentuhan (storytelling) is a way of remembering and honoring ancestors, preserving histories, and reconnecting with kapwa. It has also provided a path to resisting invisibility. From the time the first Filipinos landed in California in 1587 to the time they began settling in San Mateo County in the 1920s, storytelling has always been part of the fabric of the community’s lived experience. Equity Through Art Series’ “Filipinx Kwentuhan” will feature unique stories of resilience, healing and bayanihan in the Filipinx community in San Mateo County. The webinar panel will be moderated by Aileen Cassinetto, San Mateo County Poet Laureate, and feature Matthew Abaya, Filmmaker; Stephanie Balon, Co-Chair of the SMC BHRS Filipino Mental Health Initiative; Joanne Boston, events producer with a focus on community art and culture; Carly Burton, Jefferson High school Student and filmmaker; and Rosie Tejada, President of the Jefferson Union High School District Board of Trustees.

As we, in San Mateo County, reckon with racial inequities, it’s critical to understand the history that got us to where we are today. The Equity through Art Series, a partnership between the County Library, BHRS Office of Diversity and Equity, and the Chief Equity Officer at the County of San Mateo, takes us on a journey to understand the experiences of Black, Indigenous, Communities of Color, through their voices and stories. For the full series, visit: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLuc5tf7EL6P7G4UatPRBuPqQ0LmP1PHNa. Please join us for Filipinx Kwentuhan Webinar on March 31st from 6-7pm.

February 26: AACI’s Black History Month Event

The African American Community Initiative (AACI) Health Equity Initiative of San Mateo County BHRS’ Office of Diversity and Equity is hosting its Black History Month celebration on February 26, 2022 from 10am to 12pm as an online Zoom event.

Please register for this free event here.

Join the Diversity and Equity Council!

The Diversity and Equity Council (DEC) works to ensure that topics concerning diversity, health disparities, stigma reduction, and health equity are reflected in the work of San Mateo County’s mental health and substance use services. The DEC is open to BHRS staff, contracted providers, community members, and encourages participation of consumers/clients/family members by providing stipends or honorariums for ongoing participation.  

Over the past year, the DEC in collaboration with community partners hosted a series of Town Halls on Race & COVID-19 to share county efforts and hear from community voices about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This information was used to identify priorities and it was shared to inform the County’s larger recovery plan. Starting in 2022 the DEC will be focusing on implementing a strategic plan that supports continued collaboration with BHRS​, Health Equity Initiatives, Community-Based Organizations, and the community at large.  

We invite you to join us! The DEC meets virtually every first Friday of the month from 11-12:30pm. For meeting details and more information please contact DEC Co-chairs Brenda Nuñez at brenda.nunez@star-vista.org or Frances Lobos at flobos@smcgov.org.

Writen by Frances Lobos & Brenda Nuñez, DEC Co-Chairs

Sana SanaColita de Rana! Cuidate Hoy Para un Mejor Manana

BHRS Office of Diversity and Equity’s (ODE) Latino Collaborative co-sponsored their 8th annual Sana Sana de Rana! Cuidate! Hoy Para un Mejor Manana (Take Care of Yourself Today for a Better Tomorrow) event with partners Ayudando Latinos a Sonar (ALAS) on October 16 to celebrate Latino Heritage month. The event centered around family and healing during COVID-19.

This energetic, joyful and informative event was the Latino Collaboratives’s first virtual and all Spanish Sana Sana event! The event reached over 1,300 people (total views a month later) worked to unite our Latinx community and provide ways to obtain resources and achieve emotional health.

We were honored to have Ziomara Ochoa Rodriguez, LMFT, BHRS Deputy Director of Child and Youth Services open our event with a heartfelt welcome to our Latinx community and an invitation to learn about BHRS services.

This was followed by SMC Board of Supervisor President, David Canepa sharing his pride and commitment to supporting our Latinx community. The BHRS Native and Indigenous Peoples Initiative followed with a meaningful land acknowledgement honoring the original caretakers of the land, the Ohlone people. As the event proceeded our community was introduced to numerous community partners that shared their services and tips to maintain wellness.

Our focus on physical, emotional and social health and well-being was bolstered by community members being offered a variety of ways to put a healthy twist on a traditional meal, learn stress management techniques, introducing numerous county resources and a dynamic presentation by Public Health Policy and Planning on the importance of Covid 19 prevention and resources. In addition, we had the pleasure of watching a performance by ALAS’s Ballet Folklorico Tonantzin and Mariachi Media Luna and played a game of virtual Loteria with our community.

We are thankful to our partners and planning committee for supporting this event. It is integral in helping our Latinx community to continue to make healthy changes. Per Each Mind Matters, 1 in 5 Latinos have experienced a mental health challenge. However, Latinos are one of the groups least likely to seek help for mental illness due to reasons which include language fluency, cultural barriers and access to health coverage. Research also shown that Latinx individuals are vulnerable to stress of immigration and acculturation and that the Latino community is considered a high-risk group for depression, anxiety and substance abuse. Working together, we can help people understand that small changes, such as listening to music, talking to a counselor, eating more fruits and vegetables can make a significant difference in their physical and mental health.

Watch the event here.

« Older Entries