Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Important Announcement from RAMS Board of Directors on CEO Transition

Message from Kavoos Ghane Bassiri, President & CEO:

Dear Colleagues, Community Partners, and Friends;

I would like to inform you that I am officially resigning from my position as the President & Chief Executive Officer at Richmond Area Multi-Services, Inc. (RAMS). After a comprehensive search & recruitment process, I have been selected as the San Francisco Department of Public Health and San Francisco Health Network’s Director of Behavioral Health Services, with the City & County of San Francisco. My last day of employment with RAMS will be December 31, 2016. It has been an honor to serve this organization, all of you & our community, for over a decade.

I am so proud and humbled to have been the RAMS’ President & CEO for over 13 years. I truly appreciate your vote of confidence and I wholeheartedly cherish the privilege I was provided with to serve in this role at RAMS. I don’t take anything for granted for a moment and am so inspired by & thankful for all the experiences I have had/we have had together. During the past 13 years, RAMS has grown as an organization by leaps and bounds, offering more programs & with more diverse initiatives, serving more people, through quality, compassionate, culturally humble/competent, consumer-driven and community-based services. A lot has been accomplished, in meeting the needs of the most vulnerable, under/un-served &/or disenfranchised population in our community, and I am pleased to say that RAMS’ reputation and operations is at its strongest ever.

I look forward to staying in contact and working with you all in my new role; championing behavioral health care, strengthening our community, and ensuring the wellbeing of all San Franciscans & beyond. Respectfully, Kavoos Ghane Bassiri

Monday, November 28, 2016

Remembering David Fox

It is with deep sadness that we share the news of the recent passing of dear Mr. David Fox, Administrative Assistant at RAMS.

Mr. Fox passed away on November 22 in San Francisco. Although his battle with cancer was brief, he courageously dealt with his illness and was so appreciative of the support he received. We mourn the loss, yet we will always remember him fondly.

        Mr. David Nelson Fox
       May 7, 1960 - November 22, 2016

Mr. Fox began his employment at RAMS in April 2013. He worked as a Help Desk Technical Assistant and then Administrative Assistant at RAMS Hire-Ability Vocational Services. He was very supportive to the other staff, took his work seriously and managed his duties responsibly. He became an integral part of the RAMS’ family and our team based at Hire-Ability & at 1380 Howard Street with Behavioral Health Services. He was settled & found a home at RAMS and he will be greatly missed by his colleagues. Prior to coming to RAMS, Mr. Fox also had a successful career in graphic design work, doing design & art direction as well as production. Additionally, he was a photographer and poet, and enjoyed sharing his art & talents with others.

We extend our sincere condolences to his family, friends, and co-workers as well as those who knew & worked with him. We will miss his energetic presence and will always keep his spirit alive.

See more photos & poetry at:

Some people have asked if David had any favorite causes they could support in his honor. Here is a list of organizations that David thought did good work to make the world a better place:

American Civil Liberties Union
Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Richmond Area Multi-Services, Inc.
Southern Poverty Law Center

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

RAMS Invites You to Join #GivingTuesday ​on November 29th

#GivingTuesday is a global day of giving, celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. Kicking off the charitable season, it is the perfect start to your winter holiday and end-of-year charitable contributions.

Join the #GivingTuesday movement by supporting RAMS through a monetary donation, while shopping through AmazonSmile, a gift from our Amazon Wishlist​, or the power of your time through volunteering.

Annually, the mental health agency serves and outreaches to about 18,000 adults, children, youth, ​and families, and provides services in over 30 languages, including Asian languages – Cambodian, Chinese (Cantonese, Mandarin, Toishanese, Taiwanese), Farsi, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Tagalog, Thai, and Vietnamese – as well as Russian and Spanish. To meet the diverse community needs, RAMS offers over 30 clinical programs in over 90 sites citywide, serving the most vulnerable populations.

RAMS is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. Thank you for considering RAMS for a contribution, as the agency depends on the community's ongoing support. All contributions are tax deductible up to the extent permitted by law.

​Consider making a contribution by check or credit card:

Checks can be made payable to:

Richmond Area Multi-Services, Inc.
c/o Angela Tang, Director of Operations
639- 14th Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94118


Donate online with credit card.


Consider donating while shopping online through AmazonSmile:

RAMS is now participating in the AmazonSmile program, a simple and automatic way for Amazon customers to support RAMS every time you shop, at no additional cost to you. Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible purchases to RAMS whenever you shop on AmazonSmile! Start now by designating RAMS as your charitable organization, then using the site for all your Amazon purchases.


For more opportunities to give to RAMS, check out this page on our website.

Friday, October 21, 2016

New Director at RAMS Hire-Ability Vocational Services

It is with great pleasure that we announce the appointment of Carmen Castorena-O’Keefe as the Director of Vocational Services at RAMS Hire-Ability Vocational Services.

Ms. Castorena-O’Keefe has over 20 years of management experience, with the past 14 years being in Vocational Rehabilitation Services.  As the Program Director for Hire-Ability, Ms. Castorena-O’Keefe manages and supports a team dedicated to enhancing San Francisco City and County residents’ lives through Vocational Skills Training and Competitive Community Job Placement.

Prior to joining RAMS, Ms. Castorena-O’Keefe managed (9+ years) Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VRS) within the Human Services Agency, which serves San Mateo County residents with disabilities and/or barriers to employment; she also held positions within VRS as the  Marketing Manager and Job Development Specialist. Ms. Castorena-O’Keefe began her career as a Career Counselor/Placement Director and eventually Corporate Director of Career Services for Heald Colleges over 20 years ago.

Ms. Castorena-O’Keefe obtained her B.S degree from San Francisco State University. She has lived in San Francisco for over 30 years and is dedicated to serving and strengthening her community.

Please join us in welcoming and congratulating Ms. Carmen Castorena-O’Keefe to her new leadership appointment as the Director of RAMS Hire-Ability Vocational Services.

You may contact Carmen Castorena-O’Keefe at RAMS by telephone at 415-282-9675 and/or by email at

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

RAMS ​C​o-sponsoring S​eptember 29th SF District 1 Supervisor Candidates Forum!

RAMS is serving as one of the community sponsors for this upcoming San Francisco District 1 Supervisor Candidates Forum. Hope you can join us!
WHEN: ​Thursday, September 2​9, 2016,​ 6:​0​0pm - ​9:00pm
WHERE: ​Alamo Elementary School,​ 250 23rd Ave,​ SF
WHAT: ​2016 ​San Francisco ​District 1 Candidates Forum​, hosted by the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco​
View the Facebook Event Page:

Co-Sponsoring Organizations: ​Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Asian Family Support Services​, ​Community Youth Center (CYC)​, ​Golden Gate Village​, ​Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco​, ​Jobs with Justice San Francisco​, ​Richmond Area Multi-Services (RAMS)​, ​Richmond District Neighborhood Center​, ​Richmond District Senior Center​, ​Richmond District YMCA​, San Francisco Tenants Union

Monday, August 22, 2016

Introducing Career Connections—A New Hire-Ability Program Designed to Serve Transition Aged Youth!

RAMS is excited to announce that our Hire-Ability division will be launching a new program, called Career Connections, in the fall of 2016. The Hire-Ability Career Connections Program will offer time-limited paid internships to transitional aged youth (TAY) ages 15-25, in order to provide healthy activities and entry-level work experience, and to help TAY consumers of behavioral health services achieve resiliency and maximize recovery.

We are looking for individuals who:
·         Are between 15 and 25 years of age
·         Are a resident of San Francisco
·         Are currently receiving services through SFDPH Behavioral Health Services (SFDPH-BHS)

Application and Course Timeline:
August 2016- Application Released
Friday, Sept. 16th--Applications Due
Monday, Sept. 19th-Friday, Sept. 30th--Notification of Application Status
Thursday, October 6th: Registration forms due for accepted applicants
Tuesday, October 11th: First workshop
January, 2017: Participants start work at their internship placement
October, 2017: Program graduation

Contact Information:
Please feel free to contact us with questions about our program. We can be reached by phone at: 415.282.9675. Our brochure and application are available for download:

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Introducing the Awardees of the 2016 Staff Awards for Outstanding Service

RAMS is delighted to announce the awardees of the fourth annual Staff Awards for Outstanding Service!

To be considered for this recognition, anyone working at RAMS may be nominated by anyone within the agency. The awardees were announced during the July 2016 RAMS all-staff meeting; each awardee received a certificate and a cash prize.

Consumer/Community Advocate Award: This award honors an individual who has been an outstanding voice for consumer empowerment by promoting client centered decision-making & change, access to information & resources, and creating relationships that foster hope, safety, and a sense of self-efficacy. S/he is mindful not only of consumer needs, but also of the needs of the larger community. S/he goes above and beyond the “call of duty”, outside her/his regular responsibilities to advocate on the behalf of the organization, consumers, their communities, and the “cause” at large.

Awardee: Frank Isidro, BA
Mr. Frank Isidro serves as a Peer Supervisor within the Division of Peer-Based Services. His nomination highlighted the ways that Frank has exemplified what it means to work with a Wellness & Recovery approach. In his role, he supports Peer Counselors to further develop the skills needed to become an integral part of the workforce at numerous behavioral health sites throughout San Francisco. Frank is an inspiration for those who work with him; he has contributed in many ways over the years to the Peer Movement and to consumer employment services in the city – as a job coach, mentor, counselor, and supervisor. Frank has also led the planning of many Consumer and Family Member Conferences, again demonstrating his dedication to the community.

Excellence in Service & Cultural Competency Award: This award honors a skilled & compassionate individual who exemplifies the values and ideals of RAMS’ mission in her/his work & interaction with staff, consumers, and the community. S/he has given superior, sustained commitment to quality services, along with unwavering dedication to serve the organization (including other staff, consumers & their communities) with professionalism, integrity, respect, and humility. This individual is not only skilled at what s/he does, but also values diversity, is able to conduct self-assessments, manage & embrace the dynamics of difference, acquire new cultural knowledge, and adapt to the cultural context of the people s/he serves. S/he has a lasting positive impact on the organization and the communities.

Awardee: Wajma Ataie, MA, MFTI
Ms. Wajma Ataie is a bilingual Mental Health Counselor at RAMS Child, Youth, and Family Services (CYF). Wajma is described as having a huge heart and an excellent advocate for the families and children she works with at her John Muir Elementary School. She is dedicated to understanding the culture and family climate a child comes from and she uses her multiple language skills to connect with families and help them feel supported. Yuka Hachiuma, Director of CYF, also shared at the all-staff meeting how Wajma has consistently demonstrated her passion and dedication to working with the underserved population of pre-dominantly African-American and Latino students and their families at the school. Her openness and curiosity extends to her interactions with her colleagues where you can often find her engrossed in a discussion about culture and learning.

Rising Star/Leadership Award: The award honors an individual that has shown exceptional promise in leadership by demonstrating their skills within the organization and our communities. S/he has shown accomplishments in improving the operations of a program, the administrative/supportive functions, and/or the lives of consumers and community we serve using an effective and efficient approach. This individual leads the way with fresh energy, strong ability, and steadfast commitment.

Awardee: Flora Chan, Psy.D.
Ms. Flora Chan is a Licensed Psychologist and serves as Clinical Manager at RAMS Adult/Older Adult Outpatient Services Clinic and the Manager of Asian Family Institute. Flora is a major figure at RAMS, and has a long history with the agency as a clinician – she completed the RAMS training program first as a trainee and then as a doctoral intern. She was then hired as a staff therapist, became a licensed psychologist, and has supervised trainees and peer counselors. In her nomination, Flora is described as an exceptional therapist who is very thoughtful, sensible, and culturally sensitive, with a strong commitment to the community, humility, resiliency, and she has an exceptional ability to connect with others. She cares significantly about providing high quality care for our clients and facilitating a nurturing work environment for staff and interns. She is an advocate, always steps up, demonstrates leadership, gets people on board, and makes change.

Congratulations to the awardees! RAMS is pleased to be able to have this annual recognition for its staff.

Click HERE to view awardees from the previous year.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Peer Specialist Mental Health Certificate -- Now Accepting Applications for Fall 2016 Peer Specialist Mental Health Certificate Entry Course

RAMS, in collaboration with San Francisco State University (SFSU) Department of Counseling, is excited to announce that the Peer Specialist Mental Health Certificate Program is currently accepting applications for the Fall 2016 Peer Specialist Mental Health Certificate Entry Course!

Funded by the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), the Peer Specialist Mental Health Certificate Entry Course provides a 12-week long training for consumers of behavioral health services or their family members who are interested in becoming peer counselors/peer specialists in the field of community behavioral health. Having already successfully completed 12 cohort cycles, this course has had over 160 graduates, the majority of whom are actively engaging in work, volunteer, and educational opportunities as a direct result of taking the course. This program is free of cost for the attendee, with books and materials included, and a modest stipend is provided upon completion of the course.

We are looking for individuals who:

  • Are at least 18 years of age and a resident of San Francisco,
  • Have successfully completed at least a High School education or GED, and
  • Are able to attend 12 weeks of classes, which will be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays (10am-2pm).
  • This program is funded by MHSA through San Francisco Behavioral Health Services.  As such, the course is targeted to individuals (or family members) with personal experience with behavioral health services.

Application and Course Timeline:
  •          Wednesday, July 6th - Application Release 
  •          Tuesday, July 19th & Thursday, July 21st, 10am-12pm -                                                     Optional Informational Open Houses (see Flyer Here for details)
  •          Wednesday, August 10th @ 5:00pm - Application Deadline 
  •          Week of August 22nd - Notification of Application Status 
  •          Tuesday, September 6th - Registration Forms Due for Accepted Applicants 
  •          Tuesday, September 13th – First Day of Class 
  •          Thursday, December 8th - Graduation Ceremony 

Please feel free to contact us at (415) 579-3021 x102 or should you have any questions. Materials are also available for download at:

We look forward to receiving applications for the Fall 2016 class, and beginning another great cohort!

To view the flyers below, right-click and select any option to "Open".

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Remembering Shirley Chan

It is with deep sadness that we share the news of the recent passing of dear Ms. Shirley Suet Ying Chan, MA, Mental Health Counselor at RAMS.

Ms. Chan passed away on June 23rd in San Francisco. Although she was battling cancer, she bravely handled her illness, always putting on a cheerful face, and deflecting our concerns and worries about her.  We mourn the loss of her positive and confident spirit, and will always cherish the memories of working with her.

Shirley Suet Ying Chan
January 21, 1961 - June 23, 2016

Ms. Chan began her employment at RAMS in December 2003.  She worked as a Mental Health Counselor in the RAMS Adult/Older Adult Outpatient Clinic and the RAMS Child, Youth, & Family Services program, as well as providing counseling and support through the Problem Gambling Project Helpline at the RAMS Asian Family Institute.  She was enthusiastic about her work, and very sensitive & understanding of the cultural needs of her clients.  She felt a deep responsibility to serve the community.   And above all, Ms. Chan was an honest, kind, and generous individual who often provided emotional support, and humor & laughter, to coworkers in their time of need.  She continued her dedicated services for 12 years at RAMS, enduring the effects of her medical condition and treatment until she took her leave in 2015.  Throughout it all, she remained unflappable and upbeat, an inspiration to those who were privileged to know her.

We extend our sincere condolences to her family, friends, and co-workers as well as those who knew & worked with her over the years. We will miss her joyful presence, and will always keep her spirit alive.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

May 10 - APA Mental Health Day: Frames of Mind Exhibit

In honor of Asian Pacific American Mental Health Day and May being Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and Mental Health Awareness Month, Richmond Area Multi-Services, Inc. (RAMS) is proudly partnering with Kearny Street Workshop to hold a photography exhibit titled “Frames of Mind”. This exhibit features the work of Asian American and Pacific Islanders who participated in a 7-class workshop series, telling stories about mental health through photography.

Here are the Frames of Mind exhibit details:
      Frames of Mind exhibit: May 10-13, 2016 (please check the Center’s website for gallery hours)
      FREE Public Reception: May 10, 2016 (4:00pm to 7:00pm)
      International Hotel Manilatown Center
      868 Kearny Street, San Francisco, CA 94108

About Mental Health Conditions:
  • About one in five Americans in a given year are impacted by mental health conditions regardless of gender, age, race, religion and socioeconomic status. (NIMH) 
  • Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders appear to have extremely low utilization of mental health services relative to other U.S. populations. (NAMI) This may be due to the substantial stigma that exists and cultural & linguistic isolation of the community, family and individual.
  • The economic cost of untreated mental illness is more than 100 billion dollars each year in the United States. Without treatment the consequences of mental illness for the individual and society are staggering: unnecessary disability, unemployment, substance abuse, homelessness, inappropriate incarceration, and suicide. (NAMI)
  •  Treatments for mental health conditions today are highly effective and individuals who receive treatment have significant reduction of symptoms and improved quality of life.
Many factors contribute to mental health concerns such as biological, life experiences (e.g. trauma, immigration, housing instability), and family history of mental health conditions. When someone starts to experience the early warning signs of mental illness, knowing the risks factors and symptoms will help. Often times, family and friends are the first to support a person through these early stages. Asking for help is never a sign of weakness and wellness & recovery is always possible.

The press release is below (right-click and select any option to "Open").

Monday, April 25, 2016

Peer Specialist Mental Health Certificate ADVANCED COURSE -- Now Accepting Applications for the Summer 2016 Cohort!

RAMS is excited to announce that the Peer Specialist Mental Health Certificate Program is now accepting applications for its 8-week Peer Specialist Mental Health Certificate Advanced Course, with classes set to begin on Tuesday, June 14th, 2016!

Funded by the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), the Peer Specialist Mental Health Certificate Program (part of the Division of Peer-Based Services at RAMS) provides training for consumers of behavioral health services or their family members who are interested in becoming peer counselors/peer specialists in the field of community behavioral health. In addition to the Peer Specialist Mental Health Certificate Entry Level Course that is currently offered, RAMS has designed its Advanced Course to support and educate individuals who are providing, or have recently provided peer-based services to clients in the community (or possess relevant training, volunteer and/or educational experience), and would like to obtain more specialized peer counseling training and professional development opportunities.

We are looking for individuals who:
  • Are at least 18 years of age and a resident of San Francisco,
  • Have successfully completed at least a High School education or GED, and
  • Are able to attend 8 weeks of classes, which will be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays (3PM-6PM).
  • This program is funded by MHSA through San Francisco Behavioral Health Services. As such, the course is targeted to individuals (or family members) with personal experience with receiving behavioral health services.
  • Individuals with current or past work experience, education, and/or training (including volunteer and advocacy work) in the peer counseling field are highly encouraged to apply
Application and Course Timeline:
  • Friday, April 22nd: Application Release
  • Tuesday, May 3rd & Friday, May 6th: Optional Informational Open Houses
  • Wednesday, May 25th @ 5PM: Application Submission Deadline
  • Week of June 1st, 2016: Notification of Application Status
  • Tuesday, June 14th, 2016: First Day of Class
  • Thursday, August 4th, 2016: Last Day of Class & Graduation
Materials are available for download at: Please feel free to contact Program Coordinator, Kristin Snell, at (415) 579-3021 x102, or via email at should you have any questions or would like any additional information.

Monday, April 18, 2016

2016 Richmond Community Health Festival on Saturday, May 7th

RAMS is proud to be a co-sponsor along with San Francisco District 1 Supervisor Eric Mar, California District 19 Assembly member Phil Ting, Kaiser Permanente, Compassionate Community Care, and Self-Help for the Elderly for the Richmond Community Health Festival.

The purpose of this free health festival is to encourage a healthy lifestyle and provide access to resources that help meet the health needs of our diverse community.

The Health Festival will feature FREE health screenings and medication review along with FREE giveaways, cooking demonstrations, health education offered by about 40 community health organizations, children’s activities and family fun.

When: Saturday, May 7, 2016, 10 am - 2 pm

Where: Richmond Recreation Center, 251 18th Avenue (at Clement), San Francisco

Monday, April 4, 2016

Asian Family Institute - integrated care

RAMS is extremely proud to announce the launch of the Asian Family Institute, integrated care (AFI-ic), which offers innovative and comprehensive mental health consultation and treatment through a holistic, integrated approach for the Asian & Pacific Islander American (APIA) population in the San Francisco Bay Area. It utilizes both conventional and complementary therapies in the treatment of mental health concerns and services are available in English and Chinese. Together, a therapist and acupuncturist & traditional Chinese medicine practitioner can work to provide personalized treatments to suit each person's lifestyle and promote self-awareness and resources for self-care. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is one of the dominant medical practices used in many Asian countries, and treatments may include functional and nutritional assessments, acupuncture, and breathing and meditation exercises.

Asian & Pacific Islander Americans individuals frequently face complex mental health issues that require holistic medical and psychological care. Moving beyond demographic and cultural factors that may be a barrier to mental health care utilization for APIA individuals, the Asian Family Institute, integrated care is a remarkable step toward addressing systematic issues, by providing culturally responsive and linguistically sensitive services.

Deeply embedded in Chinese and many APIA cultures, individuals who are facing mental health issues are often encouraged to try their best to endure 忍 (ren); they may be discouraged to seek psychological services in order to try to save face, preserve their reputation, and not humiliate their family. With cultural pressures to suppress negative mood states, and the stigma against sharing experiences of psychological symptoms, individuals may feel reluctant to express concerns regarding mental health issues. Research on illness beliefs of depressed Chinese American patients reveals that they are more inclined to complain about somatic symptoms instead. Because of these issues, it is quite common for APIA individuals to feel more comfortable seeking out a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner rather than a mental health clinician, although they would also benefit from being in therapy.

For those struggling with conditions affecting the body and mind, such as chronic pain and low mood or energy, the AFI-ic provides clients the option of choosing either a comprehensive mental health evaluation, a traditional Chinese medicine assessment, or both - for a uniquely integrated approach. The health care providers at the AFI-ic clinic are distinctively qualified and experienced in treating Asian & Pacific Islander American individuals, approaching care collaboratively and with an open mind.

For more information, please contact AFI's Intake Coordinator at (415) 668-5025.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Peer Wellness Center Now Welcomes You

RAMS Division of Peer-Based Services is extremely pleased and proud to announce that our Peer Wellness Center is now open. We are located at 1282 Market Street (Market & 9th Streets), San Francisco, CA 94102. Hours and days of operation are Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm.

RAMS Peer Wellness Center is an early engagement Center for adults seeking peer-based counseling services and peer-led activity groups. The Center serves as a safe place for peer participants to gain empowerment skills within an environment that utilizes empathy and peer support to help promote and inspire recovery. This Center supports consumers of San Francisco Behavioral Health Services that may face mental health and/or substance abuse issues.

The Peer Wellness Center offers activities, facilitated by Peer Counselors, that include but are not limited to: Peer-to Peer Support Groups, Healthy Living Workshops, Creative Arts Expression, Skills Building Classes, Community Social Events and On-Site Recreational Activities.

We welcome consumers, clinicians, and community partners to call, email or visit us during our Walk-In times to learn more about the Center. Below is a flyer that you can freely share as well as a referral form to assist us with establishing eligibility for services. Please note that the referral form is optional and assists us with the process of accepting participants into the program and developing an individual wellness plan. Individuals are welcome to enroll on their own. Click HERE to download the referral form.

We are excited about this new program and we are very much looking forward to the promotion of wellness and recovery services within our Peer Community!

The Center is open to consumers of Behavioral Health Services (SFDPH).

Peer Wellness Center Open House and in celebration of Mental Health Awareness Month

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

From Baghdad To The Bay

The extraordinary journey of Mr. Ghazwan Alsharif, the Chef at RAMS Broderick Street Adult Residential Facility, is the subject of the upcoming documentary From Baghdad to The Bay. For the past eight years, Erin Palmquist, independent filmmaker and director of the documentary, has been capturing on film the compelling story of Ghazwan’s life.

When Ghazwan was growing up, he dreamed of being a painter and artist. Born in Baghdad, he shared that is from a wealthy and well-known family of diplomats. Becoming an artist was not a path his family approved of. He learned to enjoy cooking at home from his parents, but cooking was not seen as a career path. In line with his family’s wishes, he pursued a degree in Office Management.

In 2003, while still in Iraq, Ghazwan became a translator for the U.S. Military. However, the Iraqis did not trust translators for the U.S. Army, and after a month in the position, Ghazwan’s family told him to quit. But, as he explained, he did not quit and subsequently his family disowned him. During that time, he camped out at the U.S. Army base. That December, the U.S. Army became suspicious of him and threw him in jail, where he was then reportedly tortured for 75 days. “I have patience. I’ve learned to be patient,” Ghazwan shared.

In 2005, Ghazwan went into exile and moved to Jordan; it wasn’t until 2008 that he was granted refugee status and sent to Oakland, California through the International Rescue Committee (IRC). The IRC introduced Erin Palmquist, Jennifer Huang, and Karena O’Rirodan to Ghazwan, who was excited to share his story with the filmmakers.

Photo from

From Baghdad to the Bay captures the drama in Ghazwan’s life. Upon moving to the United States, he thought he was in a safe country, but one night, random people jumped him and knocked him down. His roommates called an ambulance and Ghazwan was then in the ER overnight. Afterward, his mental health declined and he went through a period of depression. “I had depression. I’ve been mugged,” Ghazwan shared.

“When you are in depression, you want to talk to someone and let it out,” Ghazwan shared. As a very social person, he started building a family in the Bay Area. “I have a son [in another country], and had to leave him, but I cannot see him. When I came here, I started building a family. I’m very social; I’m very friendly, so I have tons and tons of friends. I’m very loving to them, and they are very loving to me.” One of his friends took him to a therapist to talk and alleviate the depression. “Depression can cause a lot of harm, some people even kill themselves. For me, I knew I could get over it. I have patience,” he shared.

 “The documentary basically talks about how I grew up and survived in the jungle; about how you can get over things, with the tough life that you have. I started here from zero and now I have a successful story,” Ghazwan explained.

The documentary also talks about Ghazwan coming out. He didn’t come out when he first arrived to the United States. “One day I looked online and I saw people getting killed because of their sexuality, so I thought it was time for someone to do something and step up and step out, so I said I am a gay man.” He began supporting the Middle Eastern LGBT community in the Bay Area by starting the group Asheq, which means “love” in Arabic. “I support them and do a lot of activities with them,” he shared. Every two months, they have a dance party with fun music and it helps them build the much needed sense of community and belonging.

Photo from

Ghazwan has been working for RAMS as the Chef at the Broderick Street Adult Residential Facility for just over a year now, and he loves it. Cooking is his passion. “It’s the easiest job I’ve ever done. I tell them all the time that I love it. I like the clients; the coworkers are amazing, and the staff.” He is also a party promoter and runs his own catering business called Plates.

What makes Ghazwan happiest in the Bay Area is that he gets to be himself. He said, “I’m being myself. I’m not lying to myself. I’m in San Francisco, and that’s really a nice place to stay. I’m working at RAMS and I’m happy here. I love cooking. It’s something to make me happy. They call me, even if I have a phone call at 5 a.m. or 4 a.m., I come here to see the clients/residents. Cooking makes me happy. When I wake up, I’m blessed, because I get to work on something that I love and I’m getting paid for it,” he said.

From Baghdad to The Bay has just launched its fundraising campaign on February 25th, in order to raise money for post-production. The trailer has been released, along with the link for the donation page. The campaign has match funding by Beacon, who is matching the first $10,000.

“We have been doing this for 8 years. It’s very stressing. When I see myself I’m like, ‘Wow!’ The trailer shows some dramatic things that have happened to me, but I’m survivor. I’m happy and healthy.”

When asked about his future, Ghazwan said, “My goal is to have my own restaurant, and to see my son, who is in the United Kingdom, with my ex-wife.” Ghazwan has been on competitive cooking shows three times, including Guy’s Grocery Games on the Food Network and a show called Food Chain. “I’m still trying to [get on the] show Chopped. If I win the money, I’m going to see my son.”

For more information about the film and to donate, please visit:   #TellGhazwansStory

From Baghdad to The Bay Teaser from Erin Palmquist on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

RAMS is honored to receive the 2015 Grant from The Sophia Mirviss Memorial Fund

This summer, the Child, Youth, and Family Program at RAMS, Inc. was awarded a grant from the Sophia Mirviss Fund. The Fund was established in 1957 to honor Sophia Mirviss, M.D., a child analyst and pioneer in bringing psychoanalytic thought and practice to everyone who worked with children. She was particularly dedicated to reaching out to those who worked with children from economically disadvantaged communities.

Our grant proposal was to explore how to bring psychoanalytic ideas to work with children in the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD). RAMS clinicians are involved in the SOAR (Success, Opportunity, Achievement, Resiliency) Academy program, a classroom for students with severe emotional needs. Additional support, including on-site mental health services, and resources are provided with the goal of helping these students be able to return to a regular classroom. There are myriad challenges to a traditional therapeutic model in this setting. Students often have mixed feelings about being in the program in general, much less in therapy. Teachers tend to prioritize education. The schools themselves are not set up to promote a confidential, self-enclosed space to explore internal worlds.

We applied for the grant in order to provide a space for our clinicians to grapple with the challenges to the model, and to consider what psychoanalysis can contribute to clinical work in a school.

Once we were awarded the grant, the first task was to find a consultant who would be a good fit for the project we had proposed.  We were fortunate to find Audrey Dunn, LCSW, a proverbial needle in a haystack.  She has both provided mental health services in various collaborations with San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) for decades (in an adolescent day treatment program, on-site at middle school, etc.) and is actively involved in the psychoanalytic community.

We began the program in September, two monthly meetings held throughout the school year (Sept 2015- June 2016):  a reading group facilitated by the project coordinator and a consultation group.  Dr. Loong Kwok, a supervising psychologist who is part of the CYF team at RAMS, assigns readings in advance of his group (with input from Ms. Dunn based on what comes up in the consultation group) and discusses the readings with the clinicians.  Ms. Dunn provides a space for the clinicians to apply the readings to their experiences of running groups in the SOAR Academy classrooms and have clinical discussions with their colleagues.

Clinicians participating in the training series have observed that they are incorporating the ideas they’ve been reading when running the groups.  In addition to attending to behaviors, they  have also been paying attention to how the individuals interact with each other in the therapy group, and how the group itself fits into the school.  We have come up with some answers to specific questions about how to incorporate psychoanalytic approaches to our school-based groups. We are still working on joining these together into a cohesive plan. In the coming months, we will be considering the specific contributions of ethnicity and trauma in this work. By this summer, we believe that we can create a list of questions that need to be answered as we continue group therapy within the school system, and a list of preliminary answers.

Photo credit - Noel Z Gondek on Flickr

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

RAMS co-presenting at CAAMFest 2016

RAMS will be co-presenting a feature film, Please Remember Me, at CAAMFest 2016, held by Center for Asian American Media.

Please Remember Me

Octogenarian couple Feng and Lou have been married and inseparable for over 40 years. Ever since Lou was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Feng has utterly dedicated himself to her care. As he witnesses his wife’s mental decline and his own propensity to illness, Feng considers moving them to a nursing home — much to his wife’s disapproving bewilderment. How does one manage the care of an ailing life partner, all while dealing with the intractable march of old age?
Executive produced by award-winning filmmaker Ruby Yang (MY VOICE, MY LIFE, CAAMFest 2015), PLEASE REMEMBER ME is a tender portrait of a longtime couple who, like many elderly Chinese today, live alone as their children have settled overseas. Director Zhao Qing follows her great-uncle and -aunt over three years as Feng works pragmatically to remedy his beloved wife’s increasing dependence and loss of memory. Told with great tenderness and sensitivity, this documentary evokes the importance of personal histories and pays tribute to navigating the joys and troubles of old age with quiet courage, love and dignity.
— Chanel Kong
RAMS will be co-presenting the screening to be held on Saturday, March 12th at 1:00PM, at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, 2550 Mission Street, San Francisco CA 94110.

Click HERE for info & to purchase tickets.

Click HERE to read about the true-life love story behind the film, described by the filmmaker as a "story about memory, love, and dignity".

Please join us at the screening and the following discussion, and check out the exciting line-up of events in this 11 day celebration of film, music, and food! CAAMFest 2016 runs from March 10-20. We hope to see you there!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Peer Specialist Mental Health Certificate -- Now Accepting Applications for Spring 2016 Peer Specialist Mental Health Certificate Entry Course

RAMS, in collaboration with San Francisco State University (SFSU) Department of Counseling, is excited to announce that the Peer Specialist Mental Health Certificate Program is currently accepting applications for the Spring 2016 Peer Specialist Mental Health Certificate Entry Course!

Funded by the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), the Peer Specialist Mental Health Certificate Entry Course provides a 12-week long training for consumers of behavioral health services or their family members who are interested in becoming peer counselors/peer specialists in the field of community behavioral health. Having already successfully completed 11 cohort cycles, this course has had 150 graduates, the majority of whom are actively engaging in work, volunteer, and educational opportunities as a direct result of taking the course. This program is free of cost for the attendee, with books and materials included, and a modest stipend is provided upon completion of the course.

We are looking for individuals who:
• are at least 18 years old residents of San Francisco
• have completed at least a high school level education or GED
• are current or past consumers of behavioral health services and/or family members of consumers
• are interested in helping others in the community behavioral health setting

Application and course timeline is as follows:
• Thursday, January 14th - Application Release (click HERE for the application)
• Wednesday, January 27th & Monday, February 1st 10am-12pm - Optional Informational Open Houses (see FLYER HERE for details)
Friday, February 19th @ 5:00pm - Application Deadline 
• Week of March 1st - Notification of Application Status
• Friday, March 11th - Registration Forms Due for Accepted Applicants
• Tuesday, March 22nd – First Day of Class
• Thursday, June 9th - Graduation Ceremony

Please feel free to contact us at (415) 579-3021 x102 or should you have any questions. Materials are also available for download at:

We look forward to receiving applications for the Spring 2016 class, and beginning another great cohort!

To view the flyers below, right-click and select any option to "Open".