Category Archives: Health Equity

2/11 – AACI Presents: A Black History Month Celebration

Please join San Mateo County’s African American Community Initiative (AACI) for their 2023 Black History Month Celebration. The event is on Saturday, February 11th, 2023 from 10am to 2pm. In-person location is at Cooley Landing Center (2100 Bay Rd, East Palo Alto, CA 94303).

This event will be hybrid with an in-person limited capacity of 75 people. Registration is first come first serve, and you don’t want to miss out!

Scheduled presentations and activities include Black Mental Health, COVID-19 and Health Care in the Black Community, raffle prizes, live musical performances and poetry.

RSVP for the event here.

If you are interested to volunteer for set up, clean up, ushering, door monitoring, etc, please email dpennix@smcgov.org.

The mission of the African American Community Initiative is to become a known resource for African American Community members facing challenges with finding and utilizing mental health services, while addressing inequalities faced by African Americans in our county. Our vision is to build a community driven support system for reducing mental health and substance use treatment disparities, and the stigma of mental illness. Learn more about AACI here

Latino Collaborative Co-Chair Honored with Extra Mile Award at Women in County Government

Pictured left to right: Yolanda Ramirez, Claudia Saggese, Melissa Ibarra, Sylvia Tang, Gloria Gonzalez, Maria Lorente-Foresti, Kristie Lui, Yahaira Ortega, Twila Dependahl, Regina Moreno

Each year our San Mateo County Women in County Government recognizes exceptional women working in our government departments. This year numerous nominations were received to honor the outstanding dedication and service women have made to serve our communities.

We would like to congratulate Gloria Cahuich Gonzalez, Co-Chair of Behavioral Health & Recovery Services’ Latino Collaborative and Community Program Specialist II with SMC Public Health, Policy and Planning. Gloria has shown her passion, commitment and compassion to our Latinx community in her work to lead two Sana Sana Colita de Rana Events and provide resources and supports to our marginalized communities. The work she and other nominees below have done emphasizes the importance of creating a positive impact in San Mateo communities by implementing a racial equity lens in the work we do.

Congratulations to all other BHRS nominees:
Rookie of the Year:
Dori Bailey, MD., BHRS Adult Psychiatrist

Development Champion:
Chummy Sevilla, BHRS Clinical Services Manager II

Public Service/Extra Mile:
Barbara Weissman, MD, BHRS Adult Psychiatrist
Linda Hildreth, BHRS Supervising Mental Health Clinician
Maria Lorente-Foresti, Ph.D., BHRS Director Office of Diversity and Equity
Tennille Tucker, BHRS Supervising Mental Health Clinician
Yolanda Ramirez, BHRS Senior Community Program Specialist

Please join us in congratulating these amazing women that make a difference everyday for our workforce and those we serve.

Written by Kristie Lui and Maria Lorente-Foresti, Ph.D., BHRS Office of Diversity and Equity

Samoan Solutions 12th Annual Turkey Trot: Highlighting Community Care

As we kick off the Holiday Season, I am reminded of the importance of community and how I was recently surrounded by the Pacific Islander community.  As a member of the BHRS Office of Diversity & Equity Pacific Islander Initiative, I did my first 5K at Samoan Solutions 12th Annual Turkey Trot for Charity at the Brisbane Marina in South San Francisco.  Despite the bone chilling morning air, many made their health a priority by running and walking the 5K event.

This year’s beneficiary was Soup 4 the Soul which is a family led effort to provide for the needs of San Francisco’s homeless community. 2022 is Soup 4 the Soul’s 8th year of offering hot soup and necessities for those less fortunate during the Thanksgiving holiday. Samoan Solutions is giving a portion of this year’s proceeds to support this local effort of paying it forward.

To learn more about our Health Equity Initiative, visit here.
To learn more about our Pacific Islander Initiative, visit here.

Written by Twila Dependahl (she/her), BHRS Office of Diversity & Equity

TransACTION Day of Change – Dreaming of a World without TDOR (#endTDOR)

On Friday November 18, 2022, San Mateo County (SMC) community members gathered at Redwood City Courthouse square for the first annual TransACTION Day of Change in honor of Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). SMC has observed TDOR since 2015. By providing these annual days of action, the planning committee hope to create more awareness, education, and visibility to stop this violence enacted toward transgender individuals.

In honor of Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), TransACTION Day of Change was created to provide community the opportunity to commit to ending TDOR (#endTDOR). TDOR has traditionally been about honoring the trans people who have been murdered simply by being themselves (the highest number are Black Transgender women). The TransACTION Day of Change Planning committee (under the lead of LGBTQ Commission Director, Tanya Beat) wanted to honor victims’ lives with dignity and end the stigma that trans, nonbinary and gender diverse people face. Ultimately, we want to live in a world that no longer has Transgender Day of Remembrance. PRIDE Initiative cochairs Dana Johnson and Scott Gruendl joined community in support of TransACTION Day of Change. The featured event had resource booths, an Allegiance Wall, Reading of the Names, and ended in a Candlelight Vigil. PRIDE Initiative cochair and LGBTQ Commissioner Dana Johnson (they/ them) was the event emcee.

The event also offered a vaccination clinic which was able to administer 106 COVID-19 vaccinations and 8 MPOX vaccinations, according to the vaccine site manager.

“The event was affirming and a step towards change. I’m happy to be a part of this community and working with other community leaders in striving to make a safer community for trans, nonbinary and gender diverse folks. Identity, intersectionality, and inclusion is important to me, and I will continue to fight for trans, nonbinary, and gender diverse folks to be heard and seen.”

Dana Johnson, PRIDE Initiative Co-Chair and LGBTQ Commissioner


For more information about TDOR and to view the TDOR 2022 PowerPoint presentation visit SMC LGBTQ Commission website here.

In Solidarity,
Dana Johnson (they/ them/ theirs)

Health Ambassadors Reflect on the Importance of SMC’s 10th Annual PRIDE Celebration

BHRS Health Ambassadors supporting 10 year Anniversary of San Mateo County’s PRIDE Celebration

Version en Español abajo

Saturday at noon, the radiant sun, and hundreds of people ready to experience an LGBTQ+ celebration for the first time. Not just any celebration, but the 10 year anniversary of San Mateo County’s PRIDE Celebration! 

Volunteering at the 2022 San Mateo County Pride Celebration this past June was a group of BHRS’ Health Ambassadors, accompanied by their children. Joined by BHRS’ Office of Diversity & Equity, the Health Ambassadors helped collect demographic data of attendees to learn which communities were represented at the event. Along with volunteering, the Health Ambassadors were ready to make a special connection with their children and learn more about the LGBTQ+ community.  

“[At the Pride Celebration] my 14-year-old daughter seemed very happy, very open, like she was in her world. It was very natural for her to go with me around the park asking attendees each of the 6 questions of the questionnaire. We found happy people, dancing and enjoying their acceptance,” 

BHRS Health Ambassador, Lourdes Briseño, who had not attended a PRIDE celebration prior and, inspired by her experience at the festival, shared her story for the first time. 

“When my daughter came out she was between 8 and 9 years old, but I feel that I did not listen to her… At age 12 she came out to her older brother. Luis clarified/educated me that my daughter is a lesbian and demanded that I never reject her. I could had avoided 4 years of her suffering…”, said Lourdes. “When we arrived at the park, my husband looked very uncomfortable, but at last he said that he wanted to attend a support group for parents with LGBTQ + children… Having attended this event was a way of supporting my daughter. She is very young and needs the support of her family and then the support of society, because we don’t live alone as a family, she must make her life safer and happier for herself. Also, I learned the term ‘Queer’*” 

During the event, the community enjoyed local artists on stage, information booths breaking stigma around the LGBTQ+ community, and the playground for children and adults. While gifts were raffled and folks enjoyed the sun, it seems that the same balm of joy and freshness transforms minds and moves hearts.  

“For me it was nice to see that people fight to feel comfortable with who they are and that they find freedom along the way. At my daughter’s age -14 years old- she is already clear that all people should be accepted as they are, and we don’t have to judge anyone. We weren’t taught that where I grew up”. 

BHRS Health Ambassador, Angelica Zamora, originally from Mexico 

BHRS Health Ambassadors collected a total of 826 demographic surveys from an estimated total of 2,400 attendees from various parts of the Bay Area and other states across the country. The Spanish speaking community was the second largest group of attendees after the English speakers.  

You can find the Health Ambassadors continuing their support for LGBTQ+ communities at TransACTION Day of Change this Friday, 11/18 in Redwood City.

Read more

Health Ambassadors Join NAMIWalks 2022

16 BHRS-Health Ambassadors and their families and pets attended the first NAMIWalks held in San Mateo County. BHRS’ Office of Diversity & Equity and Office of Consumer & Family Affairs offered San Mateo County resources at the fair.

NAMIWalks Your Way 2022 came to San Mateo County for the very first time on Saturday, October 8th at Seal Point Park in San Mateo. NAMIWalks Your Way is an opportunity to unite and magnify mental health awareness across the country. We’re all in this together, and together we walk towards a future where Mental Health for All is a reality. 

To learn more about the Health Ambassador Program contact Charo Martinez at (650) 372-6136 or email mmartinezresendiz@smcgov.org.

Written by Charo Martinez (ella/sher/her), BHRS’ Office of Diversity & Equity

10/22 – 9th Annual Sana Sana, Colita de Rana

Please join us for our 9th Annual Sana Sana, Colita de Rana event that is co-sponsored by BHRS’ Latino Collaborative, ALAS, SMC Public Health, Policy and Planning, and the BHRS Office of Diversity & Equity. The event will be held on Saturday, October 22 from 11 am to 3 pm at Cunha Intermediate School, 600 Church Street, Half Moon Bay, Ca. This is a family-friendly event to promote health and wellness among our Latinx community in SMC. This event will be in Spanish with English interpretation. We are proud to share that our keynote speaker will be Olga Talamante. Ms. Talamante is a Chicana political activist, former Executive Director of the Chicana/Latino Foundation, and an individual that has dedicated her life to advocacy, social justice, and community service. Additionally, we will have a Covid-19 vaccination clinic, food, music, resource booths, presentations by our BHRS Health Ambassadors and so much more.  Please refer to the attached flyer for additional information.


This event is hosted by one of our BHRS Health Equity Initiatives (HEI). Our HEI’s were created to ensure that all members of our community are afforded access to services and quality care. The initiatives are dedicated to representing specific ethnic and cultural communities that have been underserved, inappropriately served, or unserved. Their work has assisted us in decreasing stigma, educating and empowering our communities, supporting wellness and recovery, building culturally responsive service, and being a bridge to our County services. Please help us post and share the attached flyers with your clients and networks.

Vaccine Info:

10/11 – National Day of Prayer for Behavioral Health & Understanding

Each year in the beginning of October the nation celebrates the National Day of Prayer for Behavioral Health and Understanding. This day is designed to bring together mental health and substance abuse networks and faith leaders together so that they may recognize the importance of behavioral health issues in our community.

On Tuesday, Oct 11, BHRS Office of Diversity and Equity‘s Spirituality Initiative, Latino Collaborative and numerous faith leaders will virtually host our county’s 5th National Interfaith Day of Prayer for Behavioral Health and Understanding.

Register at https://smcgov.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJAucu2grzouE9NWb7iKsoJKaQk4pG7Y-6GF

We invite consumers, faith base community, providers, and community to attend this event.

For more info contact Pam Ward Pious at wpam3238@gmail.com or Isaac Frederick at ifrederick@smcgov.org

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.

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