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Our Story



Before becoming formally recognized in 2009, the origins of ODE began when a few BHRS staff members caucused to discuss issues of race, ethnicity, and culture within their clinical work. The Mental Health Services Act provided dedicated funding through the Prevention and Early Intervention component to address cultural competence and access to mental health services for underserved communities as a key factor to preventing mental health and substance use issues. In San Mateo County this led to the formal establishment of ODE as a resource for training, thought partnership, and recommended best practices concerning health disparities, health equity, cultural competence, and cultural humility for staff and programs within San Mateo BHRS. ODE quickly became more than a resource hub as it took a bold step at a time when there were few models for County departments to address health inequities and social determinants of health; going beyond workforce and service provision to a focus on advancing health equity in behavioral health outcomes.

The Health Equity Initiatives (HEI’s) provide one path for the Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE) to link community needs to County and community-based resources. Funded by the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) since 2007, the HEI’s work to decrease stigma, educate and empower community members, support wellness and recovery, and build culturally responsive services. Over their fifteen-year history, the HEI’s have hosted events and training, implemented culturally responsible policy interventions, and created safe ways to engage with behavioral health services for residents whose identities might otherwise keep them away. ODE provides oversight to nine HEI’s representing specific ethnic and cultural communities that have been historically underserved: African American Community Initiative; Chinese Health Initiative; Filipino Mental Health Initiative; Latino Collaborative; Native and Indigenous Peoples Initiative; Pacific Islander Initiative; PRIDE Initiative; Spirituality Initiative; and the Diversity and Equity Council. HEI’s are composed of San Mateo BHRS staff, community-based health and social service providers, clients and their family members, and community members. The work and impact of our HEI’s are monumental to San Mateo County Health and our communities. Their impact has also significantly shaped ODE and the work that we have accomplished. Although we cannot acknowledge all their accomplishments in this timeline, much of their work can be found in our 2017 document entitled Health Equity Initiatives: An Over a Decade Review.

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