Category Archives: San Mateo County

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.

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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.

Pride Center MHSA Project Outcomes

The San Mateo County Pride Center opened it’s doors in July 2016 as a Mental Health ServicesAct (MHSA) Innovation (INN)-approved five-year pilot project. Since then, the Pride Center has expanded the network of services available to the LGBTQ+ community, promoted visibility and belonging, and filled gaps in culturally responsive mental health treatment services.

According to the San Mateo County LGBTQ Commission’s 2018 countywide survey of 546 LGBTQ+ residents and employees, fewer than half (43%) of adult respondents felt that their mental health care provider had the expertise to care for their needs. Among LGBTQ+ youth who responded to the survey, three-quarters (74%)
reported that they had considered harming themselves in the past 12 months, and two-thirds (65%) did not know where to access LGBTQ+ friendly health care.

The MHSA INN component allows counties to introduce and evaluate mental health approaches that have not been tried elsewhere, to develop new best practices. The San Mateo County Pride Center was developed as an INN project since the U.S. has no other model of a coordinated approach across mental health, social, and psychoeducational services for the LGBTQ+ community.

The Pride Center offers services in three components:

  1. Social and Community Activities: outreaches, engages, reduces isolation, educates, and provides support to high-risk LGBTQ+ individuals through peer-based models of wellness and recovery that include educational and stigma reduction activities.
  2. Clinical Services: provides mental health services focusing on individuals at high risk of, or with moderate to severe, mental health challenges.
  3. Resource Services and Training: serves as a hub for LGBTQ+ resources. Hosts trainings and events related to sexual orientation and gender identity, and on providing culturally affirmative services.

In FY 2020-21 alone:
• 3,000+ participants served through clinical, social, training, and drop-in services
• 169 unique individuals received clinical services
• 2,700 hours of clinical services were delivered
• 359 community members served across 10 different peer support groups
• 300+ LGBTQ+ older adults were regularly contacted via emails, calls, and support groups

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February 7: Familias con OMICRON: Historias y Recursos

San Mateo County’s Behavioral Health and Recovery Services (BHRS) Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE) invites you to join us for our Spanish-speaking Livestream event: Families with OMICRON: Stories and Resources, on February 7th @ 6:30 pm.

This event will feature San Mateo County Latinx community members and their stories of how OMICRON impacted their entire family, how they coped with difficulties, the support received, and the positive outcome they experienced navigating the OMICRON surge! Also, hear the voice of a medical expert on OMICRON updates, and learn about San Mateo County Resources.

Join us on Monday, February 7 @ 6:30 pm, via Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook @CountyofSanMateo, @SMHealth.

**Interpretation in English will be provided.

 Watch our promotional videos here: 1 & 2

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La Oficina de Diversidad y Equidad (ODE) de BHRS (por sus siglas en Ingles, Servicios de Salud Conductual y Recuperación) del Condado San Mateo, los invita al evento virtual en Español:

Familias con OMICRON: Historias y Recursos -Febrero 7 @6:30pm.

La comunidad Latinx del condado San Mateo comparte historias de cómo OMICRON afectó a toda su familia, cómo enfrentaron las dificultades, el apoyo recibido y el resultado positivo que aún experimentaron durante la oleada de OMICRON. Además, escucha la voz de un experto médico sobre las actualizaciones de OMICRON, y los recursos del condado de San Mateo.

Acompáñanos este lunes 7 de Febrero a las 6:30 pm por las redes sociales del Condado San Mateo vía Twitter, YouTube and Facebook @CountyofSanMateo, @SMHealth

**Interpretación en Ingles disponible.

Videos promocionales aquí: 1 & 2

Housing Assistance Is Available

If you need housing assistance, explore our COVID-19 resource page to connect with organizations serving San Mateo County residents! https://cmo.smcgov.org/covid-19-resources

#MaskUpSMC

Si necesita apoyo de vivienda, ¡visite nuestra página de recursos COVID-19 para conectarse con organizaciones que prestan servicio a residentes del Condado de San Mateo! https://cmo.smcgov.org/covid-19-resources

#PóngaseLaMascarillaSMC

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