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Farewell Steve Kaplan
BHRS Director to Retire

Article Clara Boyden, Manager, Alcohol and Other Drug ServicesScott Gruendl, Assistant Director
Steve Kaplan

Steve Kaplan, Director of BHRS will retire on September 30. His time with San Mateo County have made a significant impact not only on a local level, but also on a broader level. He managed to accomplished a great deal during his twelve years at the county. 

Steve’s ability to visualize a future state and build the momentum to bring it into being through an emphasis on shared values, evidence-based care and stakeholder engagement has had far reaching impacts throughout our system. These impacts are evidenced in the development of Service Connect, the integration of physical and behavioral health services through programs such as Integrated Medicated Assisted Treatment and Primary Care Interface and the development and use of Measure A and K funds to expand access to youth treatment. He has also overseen, with Louise Rogers, Health System Chief,  the redesign of Cordilleras Mental Health Center, the creation of Serenity House and the opening of the San Mateo County Pride Center. Thanks to Steve nurturing the partnership with the Health Plan of San Mateo, we have emerged as the only county behavioral health agency operating in a privatized managed care world. Steve’s courageous advocacy delivered real results. 

The Creation of BHRS

Ten year ago, in his role as Director of Substance Abuse and Shelter Services with the Human Services Agency, Steve worked with former Mental Health Director, Gail Bataille to coordinate care to meet the needs of our co-occurring clients, resulting in the merging our programs to create the new Behavioral Health & Recovery Services. This launched the Comprehensive, Continuous, Integrated System of Care (CCISC) and Change Agent work, creating shared language and values that welcome and serve co-occurring clients with an emphasis on wellness and recovery. Steve’s visionary creation of BHRS Community Service Areas in 2013 further strengthened the integration of mental health and substance use services within a community context.

State Level Leadership

Steve’s vision, advocacy, and influence were major factors in the development of a “good and modern” system of care. His thumb print can be found on the state’s inclusion of mental health and substance use services in the 1115 Waiver “Bridge to Reform” in 2010. This created the framework for California counties to plan for healthcare reform with an early rollout of services to the newly insured under the Affordable Care Act, and infused work locally with new federal financial support. His finger prints are all over the Drug Medi-Cal Organized Delivery System Waiver, which brought substance use services to many who never had access to treatment. He led San Mateo’s effort to become the first county ever to expand these services under the Affordable Care Act. In an effort to strengthen and develop more effective advocacy, Steve pushed for the merger of the County Mental Health Directors Association and County Alcohol and Drug Administrators Association of California, creating an integrated County Behavioral Health Directors Association of California. Steve has left a major impression on the behavioral health landscape in California.

After close to 40 years of work in the field, and serving as a behavioral health director in two California counties, it is with great pride that we honor his vision and strategic leadership. His drive for innovation and integration to improve quality, capacity, effectiveness and efficiency of services is enduring. Steve has had a profound and transformative effect on behavioral health services and has improved the lives of many locally, statewide and beyond. 

Finally, we would be remiss not to acknowledge Steve’s humility as a leader.  He embodies servant leadership by elevating our clients, providers, partners and staff with his empathic listening and authentic engagement in system change conversations. Steve builds consensus and uses persuasion, rather than his power or authority to create change. This is exemplified by his most recent focus on building a multi-cultural organization and helping us dream of a better future for our clients and for ourselves.

Steve, we thank you for your service and wish you health and happiness in your retirement.