Engaging Clients Through Specialized Staff and Integration

Objective: To engage clients in mental health services by reducing stigma and making services accessible through the use of peer specialists, on-site consultants or wellness center counselors


Peer Specialist Certificate Program: One of the most successful outreach and engagement programs for Richmond Area Multi-Services, Inc. (RAMS) is the Peer Specialist Certificate Program. The program curriculum follows a strengths-based, person-centered approach to recovery. RAMS trains peers to work closely with other individuals experiencing serious mental health problems to help them gain or regain a sense of competence and ability to care for themselves in a healthy and productive manner. Peers have been very effective in doing outreach and engaging others because of their personal experience and commitment to working with individuals with mental health conditions. They have access to the community and are able to reach a difficult to access population and provide valuable information.

Yau Project: The Yau Project works with the Chinatown Child Development Center located in the heart of the community.  RAMS provides ongoing consultation vs. direct services to parents and families of young children. This approach is less threatening and avoids the stigma of mental health services. Having a regular consultant on site allows parents to feel more comfortable to open up and talk about issues and concerns they have by having the problems “normalized.” The consultant is part of the Chinatown Child Development Center Team and is not seen as a visitor. They host family days, parties and events that help parents connect with their children. Consultants also provide access to different resources in the community.

Wellness Center Program: The Wellness Center Program places behavioral health counselors in a high school that has a high percentage of Asian American, Native Hawaiiaan or other Pacific Islander (AANHPI) students. Housing counselors in the schools is another way to incorporate them into the everyday lives of students who can “drop by” if they just want to visit, hang out or talk. Calling this a Wellness Center instead of a school-based mental health center makes it feel more welcoming. Students decorate the walls with their artwork and make it a place they own. The behavioral health staff are part of the orientation process at the school. They attend assemblies, get to know the parents and teachers, and are fully embedded in the community. By developing a close relationship with students, teachers and parents, they are able to address difficult issues before they become a crisis. The counselors are also able to make a referral for more in-depth mental health services at RAMS when appropriate. Working with the schools is also a strategy for disseminating information about health insurance, Medicaid and ongoing health care.

Population of Focus: Asian, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, Immigrant, Limited English Proficient, Adults, Children, Transition aged youth, Elderly

Setting: Mental health clinic, School

Level of Intervention: Individual, Family, Community

Background: RAMS is located in the Richmond District of San Francisco. Almost half the population is Asian American/Pacific Islander with smaller pockets of Latino and African Americans. Established in 1974, RAMS is the one of the oldest and most well-established AANHPI serving community based agencies in the country. The multi-ethnic, multi-lingual staff provides a wide array of services in English, various Asian and Pacific Islander languages, Russian and Spanish to children, adults, seniors, and their families. RAMS provides numerous programs and outreach strategies designed to engage the local community. They disseminate information at numerous events throughout the year, provide follow up services and use local ethnic media as well as the general media to raise awareness around mental health. They are strong community advocates and RAMS took a leadership role in getting May 10th designated as Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Awareness Day in San Francisco and eventually the State of California.


Angela Tang
Director of Operations
RAMs Inc.
3626 Balboa Street, SF, CA 94121
(415) 668-5955