Steinberg Institute

2020 Champions Here we highlight just a sampling of the crusaders and visionaries whose efforts have helped light the way forward for mental health care in California. The list is far from complete, and we’ll continue to build, bringing you the stories of champions working to transform the treatment landscape and elevate mental health as a public policy priority.

Paul Hoang

Founder, Moving Forward Psychological Institute, LLC

Healer for the Vietnamese Community Whose Path Was Forged by Pain, Trauma and Resettlement

It wasn’t until he was in college that Paul Hoang realized why he had suffered so much pain and anguish, starting from the age of 7, and how certain experiences would trigger him. Today, he can still describe those symptoms vividly.

“Every time there were clouds or a rainstorm, my whole body would start shaking involuntarily and I’d get this intense fear and anxiety,” he says. “When I would go to a body of water or swimming pool, my body would lock up and I would sink down to the bottom of the pool. I learned how to hold my breath and climb up the ladder.”

PAUL’S STORY

Imo Momoh

Deputy Director, Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services

Mental Health Leader Draws on His Immigrant Experience to Serve California’s Diverse Communities

Imo Momoh was just a teenager when he came to the United States from Nigeria to attend college and join his older sister, a student at Golden Gate University in San Francisco. Three months later, in the Fall of 2000, his sister left, and Imo was on his own. “It was hard,” he says. “I was by myself.”

For Momoh, those early years were difficult. At one point, as a student at California State University-East Bay in Hayward, things got bad enough that he confided in a school nurse. “We had built a friendly relationship and I told her I was stressed,” he says. “I just expressed the challenges and she listened. Sometimes you just want to vent and speak.”

IMO’S STORY

Greg Garcia

Program Manager, CitiesRISE

A Savvy Sacramento Youth Counselor Follows Young People’ Lead to Help Them Cope with COVID and Stress

When the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown took hold in Greg Garcia’s community in Sacramento, he knew it was important to apply some lessons he’d learned in 20 years of working with youth as a counselor and program manager: Listen to what young people say and need, and facilitate them to take leadership.

“The recurring theme is youth voice and enabling young people to lead the charge in designing what they need,” Garcia says.

GREG’S STORY

Sarah Jean Flynn

Sarah Jean Flynn, Director of the California Peer Run Warm Line

An Outcast Found Support and Recovery, and Now Shares her Insights With All Who Call

For as long as she can remember, Sarah Jean Flynn says she felt a little bit different, a little bit outside the circle that everyone else seemed to operate in. “I always felt like I identified with the underdog, identified with people who are pushed out of the center,” she says.

She’s been in some dark places, she says, but what pulled her out and gave her renewed meaning was getting support from peers. Today as director of the run by the Mental Health Association of San Francisco, Flynn is charged with providing that same kind of support to more than 250 people a day who have been calling the line since the coronavirus pandemic took full hold in March.

SARAH’S STORY

Patrick Mulvaney

Chef & Owner of Mulvaney's Building & Loan

Chef Helps Restaurant Workers Show Each Other: “I Got Your Back”

Patrick Mulvaney’s first memorable lesson in social responsibility came when he was watching a race riot on TV in the 1960s. He asked his grandmother what was happening, and she told him a story. When she was a girl in New York City, she said, she remembers seeing a painted “Help Wanted” sign on the side of a factory that also declared, “Irish need not apply.” She told him the people on TV “were protesting because they’re being treated differently, and our job is to make sure that no one else gets treated like that again.”

PATRICK’S STORY

Stan Collins

Suicide Prevention Advocate

Stan Collins is an Advocate Who’s Devoted His Life to Helping Others Stay Alive

It’s not often that a young person experiences a single event that changes the trajectory and focus of their life. For Stan Collins, that event happened in the mid-1990s when he was a freshman at Poway High School in San Diego. He’d made friends with a boy named Jesse back in middle school — they hung out together because their older brothers were best friends.

Jesse was a year older and protective of his younger friend, so Collins was delighted when they were seated next to each other in geometry class. Then one day, Collins’ brother gave him the news: Jesse had taken his own life.

STAN’S STORY

David Lloyd

Senior Policy Advisor, Kennedy Forum

David Lloyd Blends Passion and Analytical Skills to Push for Mental Health Access for All

David Lloyd was drawn to the policy world early on. He worked for home-state Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan after college, earned an MBA at Northwestern University, and went back to Stabenow’s office as an advisor on international trade. But it wasn’t until he took a job as policy analyst for a children’s organization in Chicago that he found his calling: advocating for people, often poor, who were underserved and had little political power.

DAVID’S STORY

Keris Myrick

Chief of Peer and Allied Health Professions, Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health

A Peerless Peer Advocate Who Will Yell from the Mountaintop (When She Has to)

For years, Keris Myrick has held some of the highest-level positions in the world of mental health peer support. She was executive director of a large nonprofit, president of the board of directors of NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness), and director of the Department of Consumer Affairs at a federal agency. Today, as chief of peer and allied mental health professions for the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, she oversees the training and supervision of some 600 community health workers, mental health advocates, peer supporters and medical case workers.

KERIS’ STORY