Category Archives: Office of Diversity & Equity

BHRS African American Community Initiative Presents at Board of Supervisors Meeting

By Austyn Lee, Office of Diversity & Equity Summer Intern

On Tuesday, July 25th, the African American Community Initiative (AACI) gave a presentation entitled “Conversations about Black History Year” at the Board of Supervisors Meeting in the Redwood City Hall of Justice and Records.

The AACI is one of the county’s nine Health Equity Initiatives (HEI) that address racial, ethnic, and cultural disparities within BHRS. AACI aims to be a resource for African American community members who experience disparities in access to and quality of care in our county.

AACI co-chairs Tennille Tucker and Talisha Racy began the presentation with reflections on recent AACI events such as the Black History Month Health Fair entitled “Mind, Body & Spirit Matters” that was held in February and an African American diversity training for healthcare providers.

The presentation then featured African American community members performing their powerful Photovoice pieces expressing what Black Lives Matter means to them. The Photovoice project is a part of the BHRS Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE) Storytelling Project in which participants share their stories of wellness and recovery through words along with a photo or illustration. ODE partners with community-based organizations, schools, faith-based organizations, correctional institutions, and other members of the community to offer storytelling opportunities like the Photovoice project, furthering BHRS’s mission to draw attention to mental health services, reduce the stigma of mental illness and substance abuse, and provide healing for storytellers and audiences of many different backgrounds.

Common themes from the Black Lives Matter Photovoices included the fear, anxiety, and indignation African American participants experience because they do not feel safe, secure, or protected in their communities. These feelings can lead to a great deal of distress that interferes with their daily lives. For instance, one participant shared that she always puts her license and registration on the dashboard when driving because she fears being pulled over. She continued to share that talking to someone about these experiences made her feel better, allowing her to speak further about the inequities that the African American community experience.

The AACI’s presentation at the Board of Supervisors Meeting highlighted the great work that AACI is doing to address cultural disparities in the county and the impact of collaboration with ODE’s Storytelling Project to amplify community members’ voices in the conversations about mental health and recovery.

Watch Jan Allen present his Photovoice:

Check out the Black Lives Matter Photovoice projects here:

 For more information about the Photovoice project, visit or contact Siavash Zohoori at

For more information about the African American Community Initiative, visit or contact Tennille Tucker at or Talisha Racy at

Siavash Zohoori contributed to this article.

Office of Diversity and Equity Kicks off New Fiscal Year with 100th YMHFA Session!

Wednesday, July 5th marked the 100th Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) session for San Mateo County’s Behavioral Health and Recovery Services Office of Diversity and Equity. The YMHFA training took place at Puente de la Coast Sur in Pescadero. Puente is the only Community Resource Center serving San Mateo County’s South Coast. Nineteen of Puente’s staff attended the training, which taught them how to better recognize signs and symptoms of mental health challenges in young people and ways to respond appropriately.

For more information about YMHFA, visit or contact Natalie Andrade at or 650-372-8548.Photo 3.jpg

BHRS Office of Diversity & Equity and Alcohol and Other Drug Attend 2017 CPI Regional Training in Sacramento

Last week, San Mateo County BHRS and partner organizations traveled to Sacramento for the annual Community Prevention Initiative (CPI) Regional Trainings hosted by the Center for Applied Research Solutions (CARS).  This year, the CPI Regional Trainings theme is Cultural Competence, a guiding principle of the Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF).  If you would like a copy the conference presentations and resources contact Colin Hart at

The breadth of presentations was far reaching to include topics such as:

  • Gathering Culturally Competent Data & Culturally Competent Evaluation
  • Strategies for Gathering Culturally Competent Data for American Indian/Alaska Native Populations
  • Youth Culture & Substance Use Disorder Youth Panel
  • Creating Culturally Competent Substance Use Disorder Prevention Services for LGBTQ Populations
  • Cultural Competency in Working with Immigrant and Refugee Populations
  • Cultural Competency SUD Prevention Services for Native Populations
  • Preventing Substance Use Disorders in Rural California

San Mateo County BHRS was represented by Colin Hart and Stella Chau.  They shared their thoughts and takeaways from the two day event:

“I was reminded at the conference that I’ve worked in San Mateo County for 14 years and I’ve never researched the history of how different communities were formed in the county.  Why does Daly City have such a large population of Filipinos?  How did such a large difference in socioeconomic status come to be in certain regions?  How are demographics changing now, especially with the demand for housing?   They are questions that we should ideally find answers to, in order to better serve the community.  At the conference we had to have some very honest discussions.  One in particular that stood out was that sometimes in order to help certain communities, we may first need to find ways help it heal and then later help community members build capacity, so that any work that occurs can be sustained, by them, for them.” – Stella Chau, Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) Prevention Coordinator

“It was so great to see so many people in the same room working in several different fields from more than 25 counties in Northern California.  During the conference, I was constantly thinking how San Mateo County can strengthen our commitment to cultural humility through organizational and programmatic initiatives.  How can BHRS work harder to address the stark differences in suicide rates of LGBTQ identifying youth and adults?  How can we all work to collect cultural competent data that can help our system better understand the inequities experienced by immigrant and refugee populations?  How can our Language Assistance Program address the more than 1,000 regional dialects of the Asian Pacific Islander community?  Some of these questions we don’t have the answer to and that’s okay.  Cultural humility is about accepting our limitations, put aside our differences and biases and learn from each other.” – Colin Hart, Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE) Community Health Planner

Together we are stronger when we all work for a common purpose to understand how our clients’ cultural and ethnic differences relate to power, oppression, and the greater mental health and substance use disparities.  With that, I leave you with a 3-minute video clip that was shared with conference attendees on the first day:

Web link:

Youth Mental Health First Aid to host 100th class

Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) has been offered by the BHRS Office of Diversity and Equity since 2013.  Since inception, we have successfully trained 1,711 individuals in San Mateo County.  The 100th class will be held at Puente, located in Pescadero.  Puente serves the San Mateo South Coast communities of Pescadero, La Honda, Loma Mar and San Gregorio.  They advocate for their communities and promote individual and community health and wellness.

YMHFA is an 8 hour public education program which introduces participants to unique risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems in adolescents.  It builds understanding of the importance of early intervention and teaches individuals how to help an adolescent in crisis or experiencing a mental health challenge.  YMHFA uses role playing and interactive discussions to demonstrate how to access, intervene and provide initial help.

YMHFA creates the time, space and safe environment for learning and understanding how to support youth by using empathy and compassion.  The outcomes indicate that:

  • 79% of individuals who completed the training report feeling more confident to recognize the signs of a mental health challenge or crisis.
  • 78% feel more confident to reach out to a young person experiencing a mental health challenge or crisis.
  • 84% feel more confident to assist a young person to seek professional help.
  • 83% feel more confident to assist a young person to connect with community, peer and personal supports.

Not only do participants feel more confident recognizing signs, reaching out or assisting a young person, they are actually using Youth Mental Health First Aid in their everyday lives.

“If I see a student acting in a way that might suggest he/she is having some emotional difficulties, I am more confident to approach the student, ask questions and a couple of times I have suggested the availability of help in school and follow up with the students,” said one participant six months after the  training.

“I asked a student if they felt suicidal,” stated another participant who discussed the difficult but often crucial task of asking a young person about suicide. “I would have never felt okay to do this before the training.”

100 classes in, Youth Mental Health First Aid is still an invaluable resource for the community.

 – Natalie Andrade


San Mateo County Celebrates Pride

Pride post collage

San Mateo County community members celebrate pride with the raising of a flag, live music, energetic speakers and a ribbon cutting ceremony.


This past June was Pride month and San Mateo County had a whole lot to celebrate with our fifth annual Pride event and the historic grand opening of the county’s very first Pride Center.

The Pride Initiative held the annual LGBTQ+ Pride event at San Mateo Central Park on Saturday, June 10th. This year’s theme, “Still We Rise,” inspired by Maya Angelou’s 1978 poem, “Still I Rise” was meant to remind us of the need for solidarity across all communities.

This year, for the first time, the Pride flag was raised along with the American flag in the center of the park at the commencement of Saturday’s celebration. Entertainment included poets, musicians, dancers, martial artists and even an open mic, showcasing talent from the community.  Approximately 700 people came out to celebrate.

When the PRIDE initiative originated in 2008, it was the first county sanctioned LGBTQ+ entity in San Mateo County. In a testament to the advances made by our LBTQ+ community and allies, the county proudly kicked off Pride month with the opening of San Mateo County’s very first Pride Center.

Nearly 500 community members gathered on June 1st to celebrate the grand opening, complete with a ribbon cutting, dynamic speakers and live music.

Located at 1021 S. El Camino and 11th  Ave. in San Mateo, the Pride Center combines direct behavioral health services, such as counseling, peer support, and case management, with community support and services. The center is a safe space and welcomes everyone.

The Pride Center is a collaboration with Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, funded through the Mental Health Services Act. The Center is operated by five partner organizations: StarVista, Peninsula Family Service, Outlet of Adolescent Counseling Services, Daly City Partnership and Pyramid Alternatives.

For more information about the Pride Center call 650-591-0133 or email For more information about the PRIDE Initiative, check out their website at

Lisa Putkey, Jei Africa and Regina Moreno contributed to this article.



Minority Mental Health Awareness Month


While mental illness is a leading cause of disability in the U.S., nearly two-thirds of people with a diagnosable mental illness do not seek treatment—and racial and ethnic groups are even less likely to get help, according to the US Office of Minority Health.

55% of San Mateo County residents identify as people of color. Especially in our majority minority community, challenges faced by minorities are challenges for us all.

In 2008, the US House of Representatives recognized July as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month (NMMHAM). A notable African American author, Campbell championed mental health education and support for individuals in diverse communities during her daughter’s long struggle with bipolar disorder.

Through our eight Health Equity Initiatives, the Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE) has worked to improve and expand culturally sensitive access to and treatment of behavioral health services for underserved communities over the past decade. We encourage all who are interested to get involved with our health equity initiatives and learn more about their impact with our ten year review.

This month offers us all an opportunity to continue fighting stigma by promoting public awareness of mental illness and to recommit ourselves to ensuring everyone in our County has equitable access to mental health treatment and services. As part of our NMMHAM celebration this July, ODE will share images of minority mental health, recovery and resilience in BHRS buildings. These stories are collected from County residents and BHRS clients, reflecting the strength of our community.

Contact Briana Evans ( to add Photovoices to your space.

– Briana Evans



Farewell to ODE Interns!

As the fiscal year comes to a close, so does this round of ODE’s interns. We are so excited for our interns to move forward in their careers with an enhanced understanding of health policy and community planning, cultural competence and cultural humility, health disparities, health inequities, and stigma in different communities.

The three mental health interns gave presentations to our team about their work in ODE. Each intern primarily worked within their own programs: Kristie with Parent Project, Janette with youth and adult Mental Health First Aid, and Chenece with Directing Change film contest and screening. They all shared their achievements, challenges, and next steps.

In her exit report, Kristie writes, “The Parent Project Reunion, my biggest project during my internship, has greatly increased my knowledge of community program planning, and I am particularly proud of my work for the reunion because I was able to see it through from start to finish. Through the ODE intern and New Staff Trainings and organizational cultures of the office, I have learned how to actively practice cultural competency and humility in ways such as using person-first language, recognizing and challenging personal biases and assumptions, and avoiding words that stigmatize those experiencing a mental health challenge.” Watch the video of Frances (our Parent Project coordinator) presenting Kristie with her certificate of completion, and check out pictures of the rest of our interns and their certificates below.


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