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Chinese Community Outreach Worker 3-Year Pilot Launched

Influencing organization-level changes to improve access to care, the Chinese Health Initiative (CHI) influenced system-level change in two large healthcare agencies that led to improvements in serving the San Mateo County Chinese community. A White Paper created by CHI in 2011 describes the underutilization of services available from Behavioral Health & Recovery Services (BHRS) by Chinese community members. Through a pilot project, which provided time-limited funding for a Chinese Outreach Worker, important support was provided connecting individuals to behavioral health resources and documenting the behavioral healthcare gaps and needs of the Chinese community.

The first BHRS Chinese Outreach Worker was hired in 2014 and created linguistically and culturally appropriate outreach materials, conducted outreach to and education sessions for community organizations, created strong partnerships with partnering agencies and local high schools, and linked 42 Chinese clients to behavioral health services. Also, an important strategic partnership was created with North East Medical Services (NEMS) in Daly City, and as a result of this partnership, NEMS increased BHRS referrals and later opened their own Mental Health Services program within their clinic. Subsequent Chinese Outreach Workers held the position until 2019, expanding key partnerships, educating providers, implementing culturally appropriate screening tools, and collaborating with the Health Plan of San Mateo and the Access Center of BHRS, leading to the development of a screening and referral system for Chinese-speaking primary care clients.

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Health Ambassador Program Created

The Behavioral Health & Recovery Services’ (BHRS) Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE) Health Ambassador Program (HAP) was created in 2014 in recognition of the key roles that families and communities play in effectively reaching out and helping others heal. The idea grew from graduates of the Parent Project®; parents requested more ways to get involved, build on the skills they had learned, and give back to their community. After completing 5 of 11 ODE courses, Health Ambassadors could teach courses in your community, assist in identifying community needs, work with other resolute individuals, and participate in various volunteer opportunities; many Ambassadors have found gainful employment within the behavioral health field.

Since its inception, the program has graduated 62 individuals, who dedicated over a year to fulfilling the program requirements. These individuals have been vital in increasing community awareness of services available in San Mateo County and helping connect individuals to appropriate care and support, thereby reducing the stigma around mental health and substance use issues; this, in turn, results in individuals being more willing to get help, thus improving our community’s ability to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health and/or substance use issues and to implement social change, foster community support and involvement in BHRS’ vision to improve services, and assist communities in practicing prevention and early intervention, leading to healthier and longer lives. The success of this program led to the creation of the Health Ambassador Program for Youth in 2017.

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Office of Diversity and Equity Started Mental Health Services Act and Workforce Education and Training Oversight – First 3-year Plan

In 2014, the Behavioral Health Recovery Services’ (BHRS) Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE) began oversight of two critical system programs, the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) – Proposition 63, and our Workforce Education and Training (WET) Program. These programs are critical to advancing BHRS’ mission of inclusion and equity, goals that are central to our work.

The MHSA addresses a broad continuum of prevention, early intervention, and direct service needs, and the necessary infrastructure, technology and training elements that effectively support our system of care. ODE is proud of leading this program focused on increased funding, personnel, and other resources to support County BHRS programs and monitor progress toward statewide goals for children, transition-age youth, adults, older adults, and families.

The WET program’s initial plan identified seven priority areas that serve as focus areas: 1) trauma-informed care, 2) cultural responsiveness and humility, 3) crisis management and safety, 4) self-care, 5) co-occurring informed care, 6) support and integration of families in treatment, and 7) partnering and collaboration. WET programming provides education/training and workforce development opportunities to San Mateo County behavioral health staff, contractors, providers, clients/consumers, and family members. Through system-wide training, overseeing our student training program and the Cultural Stipend Internship Program and workforce development initiatives, WET aims to create and sustain a diverse, culturally responsive, and clinically effective workforce that provides the best possible care.

Other key events in 2014: 

First Amazing Dialogue (now a yearly event) introduces trainees to our equity efforts, Health Equity Initiatives, and San Mateo County diversity and equity initiatives; ODE starts our Digital Storytelling Program, first African American Community Initiative (AACI) Digital Storytelling event, Arab American Community Planning meeting; Spirituality Initiative creates their Assessment Card; Eliminating Disparities, Inequities and Stigma in Behavioral Health Report is published.