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First National Day of Prayer for Behavioral Health and Understanding

Led by the Spirituality Initiative (SI), the first National Day of Prayer for Behavioral Health and Understanding was held on October 5th, 2016, at the County Center in downtown Redwood City. The purpose of this gathering was to bring awareness to the many residents and community members affected with mental illness and addiction. Representatives from multiple faiths – including Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Native Americans – and Behavioral Health & Recovery Services (BHRS) officials came together to highlight the issue and offer prayers for recovery. The event marked a significant shift for BHRS, as faith and spirituality began to be acknowledged as key in the recovery and wellness of clients, consumers, and community members. This was possible in great part to the work that SI had done in the years leading up to the event, including educating staff about the importance of spirituality for recovery, fostering ongoing relationships with local faith leaders to help them respond to behavioral health needs, and developing a Spirituality Policy to incorporate spiritual understanding into mental health care. This National Day of Prayer continues to be an annual event and an important space to increase mental health awareness in San Mateo County.

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Outlet Recognition of Office of Diversity and Equity

On October 2016, the San Mateo County Behavioral Health & Recovery Services’ (BHRS) Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE) received a special recognition from Outlet, a program of Adolescent Counseling Services, for the work that ODE is engaged in to create health equity for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Questioning (LGBTQ+) community in the Peninsula area. This included ODE’s work, through the PRIDE initiative, focused on addressing the barriers LGBTQ+ communities face when seeking behavioral health care services, including sponsoring the first ever PRIDE celebration in San Mateo County in 2013 and launching the LGBTQ+ Coordinated Services Center, the first of its kind in California, a one-stop-shop for a variety of resources and supports for LGBTQ+ families and individuals.

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Office of Diversity and Equity team expansion and office space

In 2016, the San Mateo County Behavioral Health & Recovery Services’ (BHRS) Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE) team grew from 6 staff members to 11 and to a total team of 19 racial equity experts. This response to a need within our services led to a robust team around program coordination and community health planning, resulting in higher engagement rates in ODE’s prevention programs, such as Parent Project®, Mental Health First Aid, Digital Storytelling and Photovoice. Internally, ODE was able to lead BHRS with the development of the Multicultural Organizational Development (MCOD) Plan and champion the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) work within San Mateo County Health. Thanks to this expansion, the ODE work also grew in its ability to support our workforce, community, partnering agencies, and larger Health and County efforts. The addition of Limited Term Employees assisted in strengthening our support for our BHRS workforce and our marginalized communities in San Mateo County.

Other key events in 2016:

Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE) launches its online course Working Effectively with Interpreters, Refresher; the Filipino Mental Health Initiative celebrates ten years as a Health Equity Initiative; the Arab Community White Paper is published; and ODE presents the ABC’s of Local Advocacy for Clients/Consumers.