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introduction by former behavioral health and recovery services, office of diversity and equity director dr. jei africa


Doing the work to embed diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice into our system of care is essential to improving health outcomes for individuals and families. The San Mateo County Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE) not only understands this, but also has the vision and the framework for getting it done.

I know this because, as ODE’s first director, I helped build that framework, bringing together myriad stakeholders – county staff, BHRS clients and their loved ones, community members, and others – to discuss what effective change would look like. ODE, as an institutionalized entity, enabled me to anchor and coordinate everyone’s efforts and to implement bold programs that reflected stakeholders’ values. ODE supported our goal of advancing health equity in behavioral health outcomes for marginalized groups.

Today, ODE remains a leader in equity work. The office continues to break down barriers to access for San Mateo County residents by empowering people, influencing progressive changes in policies and systems, developing strategic and meaningful partnerships, and promoting workforce development and transformation within BHRS. Beyond that, ODE is dedicated to supporting all clients/consumers, community organizations, and other county departments.

ODE is the North Star of BHRS when it comes to helping people thrive: It effectively guides San Mateo County on its journey to becoming a place where everyone has the resources they need to lead a healthy, meaningful life.

—Jei Africa, founding director, ODE