San Francisco Mental Health Board: Board Position Available!

Hispanic woman sitting in chair thinking

Did you know that in general, Latinos are less likely to report mental illness?

Too few Latinos seek help for mental illness. Latina magazine released an article in October 2015 that shared among Latinos with a mental disorder, “fewer than one in 11 contact a mental health specialist, and fewer than one in five contact a general health care provider, according to the American Psychiatric Association’s Office of Minority and National Affairs“.

Mental health has remained taboo for too long in our community. We need to talk about mental health and we need to start making a difference where we can.

How Can You Make A Difference?

The San Francisco Mental Health Board is currently in the search to fill three open positions:  2 family member seats and 1 public interest seat. All seats are appointed by the Board of Supervisors. The City serves a significant number of people from the Latino Community but they currently have no Latino representation on their board or any member who speaks Spanish. This is a great opportunity for people interested in shaping policy and programs to serve the community mental health and substance abuse needs.

You don’t have to have lots of policy experience to be a valuable member. What matters is that you care deeply about making sure that the best possible services get to everyone who needs them. New members get lots of support from veteran members and current staff in addition to meeting a lot of great people.

Mental Health Board Mission:

The Mental Health Board of San Francisco represents and ensures the inclusion of the diverse voices of consumers, citizens, and stakeholders in advising how mental health services and substance abuse services are administered and provided.

Through its State and City mandates, the Mental Health Board advises, reviews, advocates and educates; with the aim of having that advice integrated, incorporated, and reflected in implementation of mental health policy; with the ultimate goal of ensuring quality mental health services.

You Can Help Improve the Mental Health System!

The Mental Health Board of San Francisco is seeking applicants for Family Member and Public Interest seats on the Board. For a Family Member Seat, you must have a close family member with a serious mental illness. For a Public Interest Seat, you must have experience and knowledge of the mental health system representing the public interest. For all seats, you must be a resident of San Francisco, a citizen of the United States, over 18 years old, and you cannot work for Behavioral Health Services or one of its contractors.

Appointments will be made by the Board of Supervisors in San Francisco. As a Board member you would:

1. Attend the Board meeting on the third Wednesday evening of each month, from 6:30 to  8:30 p.m., at City Hall, One Carlton Goodlett Place, 2nd Floor, Room 278. Serve on a committee of the Board and attend committee meetings one time a month.

2. Participate in at least one program review each year.

3. Attend the Annual Retreat.

If you are interested in applying to the Board, please call Helynna Brooke or Loy Proffitt at the Mental Health Board office at 415/255-3474. They welcome your questions, and will send an application packet to you.

415-255-3474 or

Our Latino Road Map to Healing and Wellness: Building a National Model


By: Angela Gallegos-Castillo PhD, Community Builder/Planner

Just three years ago, hundreds of community members—mothers and fathers, teachers, youth,  abuelos and abuelas, counselor, and nonprofit leaders in the Mission District of San Francisco came together and said YA BASTA to the senseless violence and deaths of six Latino youth within a five-week period.  Over 500 residents responded to “el grito” and came together to collectively identify community solutions. “No more business as usual. No more watching our kids fall through the bureaucratic cracks” they said.

After several town halls and many workgroup meetings later, the community process produced the Roadmap to Peace: A Community Proposal (RTP), a five-year community-driven systems reform initiative. This proposal is based on the knowledge we all know:  that the longer youth remain disconnected, the more they are exposed to increased risks that can ultimately lead to prison or death. The RTP seeks to change that path by providing an effective alternative. Rather than asking youth to accommodate to bureaucratic processes, the RTP builds systems around the needs of youth. How?

First, Rood Map to Peace is rooted in community-based knowledge and solutions. We, the compilation of the Latino community: teachers, service providers, abuelos, parents, family members etc. have the cultural and linguistic knowledge and wisdom to effectively support the healing of our young men and women. We know that to effectively facilitate youth’s journey to healing and wellness, we must embrace restorative justice, resiliency, trauma-informed, and intergenerational principles; our approach must be holistic and coordinated.

Second, the Rood Map to Peace promotes on-demand services. This concept has been raised numerous times for various issues, and there’s a reason. It’s essential for disconnected youth. Linking youth to support and services when THEY need it is pretty revolutionary. Currently, youth and their families wait—sometimes as long as three months— for help. By the time youth can finally be seen, their problems have worsened. On-demand services means youth and their families can receive care without waiting, thereby warding off increased risks.

Third, is the notion of shared care conferencing. Remember when it was said that “it takes a village?” But what happens if the villagers don’t have a process for communicating about the developing needs of each youth? That’s the system we currently have. On average, a disconnected youth typically needs support for housing, healthcare, education, job training, and behavioral support. That usually means s/he must work with five or more service providers, most of whom don’t talk with each other about that one youth. Services and solutions remain in silos, leaving young person frustrated with an overly bureaucratic system. We aim to create a coordinated, integrated service network that communicates together to create a human safety net for each young person so they don’t fall through the cracks.

Fourth, Rood Map to Peace is also tackling policy reforms. Existing policies around juvenile justice, program budgeting targeting disconnected youth, and police responses to neighborhood violence must be revisited with an eye towards social justice and equity. For example, we know the restorative justice framework is healing and effective at reducing violence and conflict. However this framework has yet to be adopted in most school districts as the strategy for reducing suspensions and expulsions. It’s time to integrate policies that support equity, social justice and healing into current systems. Advocating for these and other policy changes will go far in the creation of positive, healthy options and connections for young people, their families and the communities they live in.

IT’s TIME! Together, as an organized and collective voice, we can make a difference in how we engage, inform and support the healing of our Latina/o youth and their families and collectively change the institutional practices that don’t work. As they say, “If not us, then who?”

Come join us! We are seeking partners – youth, residents, agencies and institutions – in San Francisco who are interested in peace-making and strengthening community connections among our youth. Please contact us if you would like to assist or if you’d like more information. Please contact Angela Gallegos-Castillo at

in the streets


Road Map to Peace Partnership

The Road Map to Peace initiative is directed by a colectiva that encompasses the following members:  community residents, Instituto Familiar de la Raza, Mission Peace Collaborative, CARECEN of San Francisco, Mission Neighborhood Health Center, Mission Neighborhood Centers, Bay Area Community Resources (CHALK), Asian Neighborhood Design, Five Keys Charter School, Mission Peace Collaborative, Horizons, Inc., UCSF Clinical and Translation Science Institute, and SFSU Cesar Chavez Institute. The mission of the RTP is increase the economic security, health and safety of San Francisco Latina/o youth in the Mission district and citywide.Roadmap to peace


Creating a Culture of Coverage

Creating a Culture of Coverage,
Lorena Huerta, Executive Director of Familias Unidas


In a state where Latinos are now the majority, there were too few that enrolled into Covered California.The year 2013 is a benchmark in the Obama administration as health is now beginning to be recognized as a right and not a privilege.  The media campaign missed the mark in outreaching to Latinos.  Statements like, ” you cannot be denied for preexisting conditions” did not resonate with Latinos. Latinos and in particular, immigrant populations have not had access to insurance in the US or, in their home countries.  Health care is not part of the Latino culture.

It reminds me of growing up in the Central Valley.  I lived on a dairy farm where all the families around us were mostly uninsured.  One of the reasons I went into social work is because of my father’s example.  He was considered the community social worker because he knew some English.  A family that had been friends of ours were uninsured.  The mother of the family was diagnosed with cancer.  As was common for most families, she did not have access to preventative care and so she sought treatment too late.When she passed away, the family lost the home they worked so hard to buy.  It was their American dream.

Everyone has the responsibility to create a Culture of Coverage.  It is time to begin changing how we speak about health in our circles, within our communities, in our churches, and schools. It is our right to have access to quality health care. Not to be excluded are the remaining uninsured which really means those that are undocumented.  Health care for all means that they should be included into the Affordable Care Act.  It is time that we begin creating a Culture of Coverage in the Latino community.