The mission of the Filipino Mental Health Initiative is to improve the well-being of Filipinos in San Mateo County by reducing the stigma of mental health, increasing access to services, and further empowering the community through outreach and engagement. We strive to connect individuals to appropriate health, mental health and social services, and ensure culturally appropriate services through provider collaboration.

The Filipino Mental Health Initiative (FMHI) grew out of a series of focus groups conducted in 2005 facilitated by Behavioral Health & Recovery Services of San Mateo County. Community members, providers, and interested individuals came together to discuss a broad array of issues pertaining to health and mental health, particularly the stigma associated with mental illness and the barriers that prevent Filipinos from obtaining appropriate services and treatment.

We have been active in providing community outreach, parent event nights, provider training, the development and dissemination of 5,000 community directories, and the inclusion of over 35 agency representatives to be part of an oversight committee. The Filipino Mental Health Initiative has grown to include a diverse range of members and collaborative partners including staff from Behavioral Health & Recovery Services of San Mateo County, Asian American Recovery Services, Pilipino Bayanihan Resource Center, Community Overcoming Relationship Abuse, San Mateo County Health System, community members, and other stakeholders.



Stephanie Garma Balón

Stephanie Garma Balón, MA, AMFT (she/her) is a second-gen, Pinay-American, & proud Mama—born/raised on occupied land of the Ramaytush Ohlone people, AKA: Daly City/San Francisco, and of Ilokano & Visayan decent. As an Expressive Arts Therapist at StarVista in North San Mateo County (SMC) providing individual and group therapy to youth, parents, and families, Steph leans on her belief in the transformative healing power of the arts. Her heartwork and hustle includes over 20 years of experience in the non-profit sector and has an extensive community mental health advocacy background addressing health inequities amongst underserved populations, namely within the Filipinx community. As Co-chair of the Filipino Mental Health Initiative of SMC, she was recognized with a Certificate of Commendation by SMC Supervisor, David J. Canepa, for her community activism. She has also sat on Congresswoman Jackie Speier’s Asian American Advisory Committee to advise on the status of the Filipinx community’s wellness.


Christi Morales-Kumasawa

Christi Morales-Kumasawa is passionate about helping others achieve wellness and feel empowered, which is why she pursued a career in mental health after being a journalist for almost a decade. She splits her time between clinical work providing counseling to school-aged youth at StarVista and advocating/organizing within the Filipinx community through FMHI-SMC. As a co-chair, she is committed to expanding access to culturally responsive mental health services within community. She is dedicated to her mental health work, but also continues her passion for writing and creating through shades Magazine and Exceptional Women in Publishing (EWIP), where she is a board member. At shades, she utilizes this platform to stress the importance of talking about mental health as a contributing writer, as well as how to responsibly report on this subject in the media through panels she has organized at EWIP conferences.

Committee Members

Advisory Member

Peter Rojo

Peter Rojo is an Assistant Vice President with over 30 years experience in Human Resources Technology for a Fortune 500 company based in San Francisco. Peter is inspired by the meaningful impact of serving and being in Kapwa with our communities.

Advisory Member

Francesca Lomotan

Francesca Lomotan, MPH is the Tobacco Prevention Program Director at San Mateo County Health. She has been a member of FMHI-SMC since 2014.

Advisory Member

Alexis Madayag

Alexis (he/him/his) works as an educator with 10+ years of experience working from elementary to college-level institutions. He volunteers with FMHI and is a speaker and mental health advocate for Seeing Through the Stigma campaign by Heart & Soul, Inc.

Advisory Member

Hazel Benigno, Psy.D.

Dr. Hazel Benigno (she/siya) is a licensed clinical psychologist who identifies as an Academic-Artist-Activist. She values justice and equity in her work as a non-profit director, a mentor, and a mental health consultant.

Advisory Member

Krystle Cansino

I’m a Bay Area Native who joined FMHI in hope to serve the Filipino Community spotlight the LGBTQ+ and bring mental health awareness and wellness into the conversations between our kababayan.

Advisory Member

Alyssa Saquilayan

Alyssa Saquilayan, RN, BSN, NC-BC (she/her) is a 2nd-generation Pilipina-American, Board-Certified Nurse Coach, Registered Yoga Teacher, and Reiki Level 2 Practitioner who strives for body liberation, self-empowerment, and mindful awareness.