Ahmadreza “Ahmad” Bahrami has spent most of his professional career running programs to help youth and adults with mental and behavioral health issues in Fresno and Kings counties in the heart of California’s Central Valley.
With his deep experience and customary energy, Bahrami since last November has been leading the development of a new division within the Fresno County Department of Behavioral Health that is focused on engagement and ethnic services.
It’s a big role with responsibilities that range from overseeing the use of Mental Health Services Act funds to marketing and public education and spearheading implementation of the county’s suicide prevention plan.
One area in which Bahrami is especially interested is ensuring that services the county offers are culturally and linguistically appropriate so that they reach underserved communities.
He is sensitive to the needs of diverse populations in part because his family fled Iran and immigrated to the United States via Europe when he was a child, eventually settling in the Lancaster-Palmdale area outside of Los Angeles.
“It’s the lens I look through. I have that experience,” said Ahmad, who was already a U.S. citizen because he was born here when his parents previously came to study. His parents could speak English, so he did not have to translate for them, but he sees how that responsibility falls on the shoulders of many children.
“It’s allowed me to be more empathetic and understanding,” Ahmad said.
After graduating with a degree in criminology from California State University, Fresno, Ahmad counseled youth parolees with substance use problems and helped administer a parole program for adults before shifting to providing substance abuse and other services for youth more generally and then for the community at large.
For nine years, Ahmad was with Kings County’s Department of Behavioral Health, where he held a similar job to his current one and where, among other things, he took the lead on developing a cultural competency plan for best delivery of services.
“I feel like the position I am in now is a culmination of what I’ve done for the last eight or nine years,” he said.
Fresno County is lucky to have you, Ahmad!