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.
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.
This past July, the Office of Diversity and Equity was proud to recognize two new Heath Ambassador Program (HAP) graduates, Margarita and Cynthia. The Health Ambassadors were awarded their HAP certificate at the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Recovery Commission. Margarita and Cynthia are pictured below and accompanied by fellow former graduates, facilitators and the Director of Behavioral Health & Recovery Services.
From Margarita: “I am a mother, I work, I am a volunteer, and I am a recent graduate of the Health Ambassador program. The courses I took in the Health Ambassador program have helped me a lot in my personal life as well as in my work in the community. The mental health courses were especially interesting and I would like to continue to learn and to educate myself. Because of all these positive changes that I’ve had in my life, I am a positive, understanding, and optimistic person who likes to listen to others.”
From Cynthia: “I am a recent graduate of the Health Ambassador program. I am a mother of three kids and the classes I took have given me a lot of information. Through these clases I learned about mental health and substance abuse, I also learned how to interact with my family and others free of stigma and to be a strong, confident and positive person. I took these classes to educate myself and to help my 9-year old son, which I have accomplished. As a result, I have also learned to recognize mental health issues with my family and others and am able to educate, inform and guide them better since we all have needs and often have the same problems and we judge instead of help each other.”
HAP was created in recognition of the important role that community members serve in effectively reaching out to others. Health Ambassadors teach youth and adult courses in their community, assist in identifying needs and help to make a change, participate in various opportunities and are paid a stipend for their contributions.
We thank the graduates for their time and dedication to informing, educating, and making an impact to reduce the stigma around mental health and substance abuse.
On July 28th, we presented three innovative project plans to the State of California, Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission (MHSOAC). All three projects were approved and will now move forward to implementation. Thank you to those that provided testimony at the MSOAC meeting and shared their stories and experiences in support of these projects. A few highlights on each project are included below.
- The Health Ambassador Program for Youth (HAP-Y), a project that will adapt, pilot and evaluate a psycho-educational process (based on an adult Health Ambassador Program) to train youth ages 16-25 as ambassadors for mental health awareness, stigma reduction and in turn increase access to mental health services. The project will be administered by StarVista, who’s role includes supporting the youth post graduation with opportunities to engage in community presentations, outreach, advisory roles, etc.
- Special thank you to Yolanda Ramirez, current Health Ambassador and Family Partner with BHRS for her sharing her personal and heart-felt testimony in support of at-risk youth and to Narges Zohoury Dillon, Program Director at StarVista for sharing her professional experience with youth advocates and youth in crisis, in support of HAP-Y.
- The LGBTQ Behavioral Health Coordinated Services Center (The Center) will provide a coordinated approach across mental health treatment, recovery and supports for high risk LGBTQ communities and include the collaboration of multiple agencies. The Center will include a space where groups, events and other activities will be held and feature the coordination of three components; 1) a social and community component; 2) a clinical component; and 3) a resource component.
- Thank you to Anthony Ross, Outlet Director for Adolescent Counseling Services for sharing his heart-felt personal and professional testimony in support of transgender and gender non conforming and high risk individuals.
- The Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT) within an Adult Service System will adapt, pilot and evaluate the application of the NMT approach (primarily used with youth) to an adult population, within the BHRS Adult System of Care. NMT locates the neurobiological reason for an individual’s behavioral problems and, if appropriate, provides a holistic approach integrated with multiple forms of targeted therapies that may include music, dance, yoga, drumming, therapeutic massage, etc.
To learn more about these projects, final Project Briefs are available on the MHSA website, www.smchealth.org/bhrs/mhsa.