In adherence to the Shelter in Place directives from the State and our County Public Health Officer, Dr. Sara Cody, the Behavioral Health Board and Committee meetings are canceled until further notice. In addition, we regret to inform you that the 9th Annual Behavioral Health Community Heroes Awards event scheduled for May 6, 2020, has been canceled.
For the latest information on the Public Health Department guidelines, please visit: https://www.sccgov.org/sites/phd/DiseaseInformation/novel-coronavirus/Pages/home.aspx
Despite the cancellation, the County of Santa Clara Behavioral Health Board (BHB) elected to recognize community members and members of the SCC Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) who have exhibited exemplary service in the field of behavioral health or trained to identify and address the needs of people with mental illness while working in the field.
The BHB Selection Committee and County of Santa Clara, Office of the Sheriff’s Department, had the difficult task of selecting this year's Behavioral Health Community Heroes and CIT Officers from an extensive list of well-deserving candidates to be recognized this year.
On behalf of the County of Santa Clara Behavioral Health Board, County of Santa Clara Behavioral Health Services Department, and Office of the Sheriff, we are honored to introduce the 2020 Behavioral Health Community Heroes Award Recipients.
Behavioral Health Services Department
Mobile Crisis Response Team
The mobile crisis response team was started in 2018. The mission of the team is to provide crisis response to the community and support to law enforcement in responding to crisis situations. The team has provided services to 1,727 callers with hundreds of field responses. This has included talking clients down from ledges, assisting in hostage situations, and working with clients who have barricaded themselves in dangerous situations.
The photo in order from top left going clockwise:
Beverly Reyes – Clinical Lead
Amy Hayes – Program Manager
Michelle Jio – Clinician
Yanex Orellana – Clinician
Mikelle Le – Senior Manager
Stephanie Mew – Clinician
Su Chen – Clinician
Betty Phan – Clinician
Jodie Pierce – Student Intern
James Sweet – Clinician
Bradley Carson – Clinician
Antoinette Bonner – Clinician
Van Lan Truong – Data Analyst
John Costa – Law Enforcement Liaison
Tony Lopez – Law Enforcement Liaison
Gina Cecconi was born in Oregon and moved to California as a child. She is a graduate of Branham High School and attended San Jose City College. Gina first became acquainted with NAMI Santa Clara County six years ago after seeing an In Our Own Voice presentation at Mission Oaks Hospital when a family member was hospitalized there. Gina not only was able to find support as a family member but also as a client who lives with dual-diagnosis, depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Gina has now been clean for 25 years! Through NAMI, Gina has completed Family to Family, Peer to Peer, is trained as an In Our Own Voice presenter, does community outreach events, is a regular volunteer, and was Volunteer Project Assistant for a few years. She is also certified in Suicide Prevention, WRAP, and is a QPR Gatekeeper. Gina is delighted to serve as a regular volunteer at Grace Community Center, assisting with other clients. In her free time, she enjoys music, fishing, and spending time with her partner Rick of 29 years, children Vance and Amanda, and her four grandchildren. Gina is thrilled to have been named a Behavioral Health Hero, and to be given the opportunity to stand alongside other admirable community heroes!
I am currently the Chief Schools Officer for CHC and the Interim head of Sand Hill School. I was the Director of the Esther B Clark Schools, a non-pubic school from 1996-2000, and then again from 2007–2019. During my tenure, we developed, implemented, and refined the interdisciplinary staffing model that has effectively helped children with emotional and behavioral regulation challenges learn to recognize and manage themselves to the level of being able to return to their home school districts and participate in their district programs more successfully. In 2016, we expanded from just the Palo Alto campus to the south bay and the school now serves over 60 school districts from Marin to Gilroy and Santa Cruz and 125 students. Before coming to CHC in 1996, I was the Director of the Chartwell School, a private elementary school for children with significant learning Disabilities, in Monterey County for ten years. It was during my time at Chartwell School that I first came to appreciate the need these students have for behavioral health services and have been an avid supporter of providing such services for all students who are struggling to be successful in school, with peers, and in life.
Let me express my gratitude and appreciation to all those on the nominating committee, Dr. Joan Baran for nominating me and to all my CHC colleagues who have been so supportive and instrumental in helping me build the Esther B. Clark School and now the Sand Hill School to the professional caliber we have attained.
Marc Berman was first elected to the California State Assembly in November 2016. He represents the 24th District, which includes southern San Mateo County and northern Santa Clara County in the heart of Silicon Valley. In the Assembly, Marc serves as chair of the Committee on Elections and Redistricting, the Select Committee on the Master Plan for Higher Education in California, and the Select Committee on the Census. He also serves on the following Assembly Standing Committees: Governmental Organization; Insurance; Privacy and Consumer Protection; and Transportation. Marc has had one of the highest rates of legislative success in the Legislature, having sent 47 bills to the Governor in the first three years in office. He has authored legislation related to a number of issues, including elections, the 2020 Census, education, youth mental health, sexual assault, firearm safety, deep fakes, housing, and the environment. Prior to being elected to the Assembly, Marc served on the Palo Alto City Council while working for the Silicon Valley Education Foundation. Prior to his work in the non-profit sector, Marc was an attorney with Latham & Watkins LLP and Merino Yebri, LLP. Marc was raised in Palo Alto, California. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and his law degree from the University of Southern California.
Carolyn Bowker received her BS in Nursing from California State University, San Jose (now known as San Jose State University) in 1972. She received a master’s degree in Nursing from the University of California, San Francisco in 1982. She worked in the field of Mental Health Nursing at the Palo Alto Veterans Health Care System from 1973 to 2004. Following her retirement, she volunteered as a chaplain with the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy. She has been with the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy since 2006. Initially serving with the mentally ill inmates with lower security status, she led Bible studies and co-led a class where she taught relaxation skills. In 2017, this cell block was dispersed throughout the jail system, so these efforts ceased. Starting in 2008, she started serving in a second mentally ill cell block with inmates with a higher security status and more severe persistent mental health problems. She continues to serve these inmates going cell to cell, offering prayers, support and hope.
I have been a NAMI member and mental health advocate for many years. My youngest child was diagnosed with a mental illness around 30 years ago. Since then I have also been a member of the Mental Health/Behavioral Health Boards of both Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. I sat on the Board of Directors of NAMI California for 6 years. CIT began in Santa Clara County and then to many other counties in this state and was brought here by me with the help of San Jose P.D. and NAMI and then many other county and law enforcement agencies. My main goal is to get faster and more efficient treatment and safe housing for individuals with a mental illness.
NBC Bay Area
Since 1996, he has been an NBC Bay Area News reporter, host, and producer of “Comunidad Del Valle,” the longest-running public affairs program in the Bay Area. Comunidad Del Valle now also airs in Spanish on Telemundo 48. Damian is a recipient of the prestigious Emmy Award. Damian grew up in Greenfield, about 2 hours south of San Francisco on Highway 101. While in high school, Damian worked in the agricultural fields of the Salinas Valley, with his family, to help make ends meet. He picked garlic, broccoli, cucumbers, and strawberries.
Elena Kadvany is the education reporter for the Palo Alto Weekly. She has reported in-depth on youth mental health for several years, including the lack of inpatient psychiatric services for adolescents in Santa Clara County, the youth suicide cluster in Palo Alto and local school districts' efforts to improve student wellbeing. Her work on this subject and others has been recognized by the California Newspaper Publishers Association and the San Francisco Peninsula Press Club. She is a Menlo Park native and holds a bachelor's in Spanish with a minor in journalism from the University of Southern California.
Mover and Shaker
Nira Singh, Psy. D.
Dr. Singh has been the Director of Behavioral Health at AACI since November 2016. She is a licensed clinical psychologist who has served for over 28 years in community-based, non-profit settings, working with and advocating for underserved and marginalized populations, with a strong focus on programs for immigrant and refugee populations. A child of immigrants from India herself, she began her career in the field of domestic violence in a shelter began by Dr. Lenore Walker, and then as the first staff member working with Narika, a domestic violence program serving South Asian women and children. Dr. Singh has worked within agencies and on several coalitions to address cultural competency and cultural humility in the training of service providers and models of service delivery and has been involved in developing and implementing trauma-informed and strength-based services at various agencies in the Bay Area. She has served as the Director of Children Youth and Family Services at Richmond Area Multi-Services (RAMS) and as the Director of Refugee Foster Care Services at Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County (CCSCC), where she invested in integrated client-centered care and also helped to develop and meet with client councils to inform services and empower consumers. She has served as Adjunct Faculty at CSPP-Alameda teaching multicultural awareness, on several dissertation committees and has enjoyed teaching, supervising and mentoring up and coming clinicians, supervisors, managers and educators in the field for the last 15 years. At AACI, Dr. Singh oversees the diverse range of behavioral health service programs for Survivors of Torture, Family and Children, Adults/Older Adults, CalWORKs beneficiaries, and those impacted by Substance Abuse and Problem Gambling. She oversees a culturally and linguistically diverse and multidisciplinary team including peer support staff, paraprofessionals, interns, licensed staff, registered nurse and psychiatrists. She also expanded the team to include an expressive arts counselor this year and is a trained dancer in global dance forms. She serves as a clinical supervisor for various staff, doctoral interns and trainees and nurse practitioner intern both within her department and for the Integrated Behavioral Health program housed in AACI’s Federally Qualified Health Center as well as the Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking program. Dr. Singh is also an active part of the Executive Leadership of the agency dedicated to integrated, client-centered, culturally competent, and trauma-informed services.
Young Mover and Shaker
Hanna Suh, Sophia Lu, and Vardaan Shah
Hanna is a co-producer of Project Oyster and a senior at Gunn High School. She is also an executive at BEAM, a non-profit organization (from which Project Oyster was founded) aimed to help teens develop business skills and entrepreneurship skills. Hanna co-founded Project Oyster on the idea that anyone can begin a conversation about mental health, and she hopes to continue spreading awareness about mental health in college and beyond. Hanna plans on studying business & technology management with a minor in mechanical engineering at NYU this coming fall.
Sophia is a current senior at Gunn High School, and the co-founder and main anchor of Project Oyster— a podcast that aims to destigmatize mental health using the power of storytelling. Using her involvement with Project Oyster to share that lesson, she gave a speech at the TEDx Gunn High School event, titled "Speaking Up in the Face of Stigma," where she spoke on the consequences of remaining silent when you see in a problem in your community. Sophia plans to continue advocating for mental health awareness in college and beyond.
Vardaan is a senior at Gunn High School and a co-founder of the Project Oyster Podcast. His favorite part about producing episodes is meeting new people and learning about their experiences. He hopes to study business in college and continue advocating and promoting mental health.
Blackbird House Peer Respite
In December of 2018, Blackbird House opened its doors as the first Peer Respite program in Santa Clara County, becoming one of only six peer respites in the state. With no local footsteps to follow in, we are proud to be one of the pioneers of the peer respite movement. Blackbird House’s leadership team is a collective of unique individuals that have both professional experience, and the lived experience that allows them to connect with staff and guests alike. Blackbird House will continuously strive to surpass all expectations of the peer respite model.
Born on an Army base outside Boston, as an Army Brat, I moved around a lot in my youth. We settled down in Oakland, where I got a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from U.C. Berkeley and later a M.S. in Math from San Jose State. I am retired from Lockheed after 38 years. Married, I have 3 kids and 2 step-kids. Hobbies include playing the piano, playing cards, and working out.
Crisis Intervention Officers of the Year
The Board of Supervisors adopted a Commendation recognizing CIT Officers on April 7, 2020. To view the agenda, video or the meeting minutes, please visit the following link:
California Highway Patrol