California Statewide Mental Health Commission Approves Multi-Million Dollar Grant for Future Filipina/x/o Social Enterprise Center

September 30, 2020

Press Contact:
Christi Morales-Kumasawa
FMHI-SMC Co-chair

California Statewide Mental Health Commission Approves Multi-Million Dollar Grant for Future Filipina/x/o Social Enterprise Center

​(Daly City, CA) — The Filipino Mental Health Initiative of San Mateo County (FMHI-SMC) is celebrating a huge victory, after receiving unanimous approval for its proposal to create the first Filipina/x/o Social Enterprise Cultural Center of its kind in North San Mateo County. The approval includes $2.6 million dollars in seed money towards creation of the center. The Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission (MHSOAC) voted to approve this during a recent virtual public hearing on August 27.

The center aims to provide culturally relevant mental health and wellness services for the Filipinx community, while also serving as an intergenerational gathering space. The core program is designed for youth, ages 16-24, and would provide workforce development training, leadership skills, as well as cultural identity and mental health education.

FMHI-SMC Co-chair Stephanie Balon gave a presentation outlining the programming and potential benefits for the Filipinx community, which has historically underutilized mental health services despite research showing a high incidence rate of depression and suicidal ideation — especially among Filipina youth. Community members also provided emotionally-moving testimonies about why this center is needed.

“We are so incredibly grateful and humbled by all the volunteers, staff, and community who invested an immense amount of time and energy to see this come to fruition,” said Balon.

This grant is part of the Mental Health Services Act’s Innovation Funding Program, which is reserved for proposals that feature new approaches to improve mental health in underserved communities.

FMHI-SMC’s proposal was reportedly chosen for its holistic approach to mental health and its social enterprise component — a cafe in which revenue from this will fund the center’s programming. The group began soliciting stakeholder and community input for the proposal in the summer of 2018, but the dream to create a North San Mateo County Filipina/x/o center with wellness in mind is more than a decade in the making.

“To have this opportunity to co-create a culturally affirming and intergenerationally engaging space is a huge win within itself: it was built with the intention to be for the people and by the people,” remarked Balon about engaging the community in the planning process. “It’s more than a physical space but a symbol of our heritage. Something to say our mental health and wellness matters—that OUR stories matter.”

FMHI-SMC worked closely with Doris Estremera, the MHSA Manager from San Mateo County’s Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, and FMHI-SMC’s advisory group to finalize the proposal. There were also many political and community leaders, as well as key stakeholders who provided guidance and support during the two-year process that preceded the MHSOAC’s approval.

The next phase of the process includes identifying an oversight agency/non-profit, which could take several months, with the goal of opening the center any time between late next year to the earlier part of 2022.

About Filipino Mental Health Initiative of San Mateo County
Formally named the Filipino Mental Health Initiative, in 2006, it is a community collaborative that is part of the Health Equity Initiatives of the Office of Diversity and Equity. The group is made up of Filipina/x/o mental health providers, leaders, public officials, community members, students and other stakeholders — with the goal of improving mental health awareness and outreach in the community, as well as advocating for culturally relevant wellness services.