Cindy Muñoz, licensed clinical social worker in integrated behavioral health (IBH) at the Wilma Chan Highland Hospital Campus (WCHHC) is frequently surprised and deeply moved by how often her patients express their gratitude for feeling seen, heard and supported in a health care setting.

“For many patients, it’s the first time they have had space held just for them that is tailored to support their mental health and well-being,” shared Muñoz. “They are so grateful for the kindness, empathy and connection they feel here.”

Muñoz, who has been with Alameda Health System (AHS) for just over two years, started in the Sexual Assault Response and Recovery Team (SARRT) before moving into integrated behavioral health (IBH). “I became a social worker to help educate and support the healing of marginalized communities around sexuality, sexual trauma, intimacy and sex positivity,” she said.

As an IBH therapist Muñoz shared that she’s able to support each patient’s total health by identifying their mental health symptoms and then addressing them through short-term, evidenced based interventions such as individual and group therapy sessions. She also helps patients navigate their medical journeys both inside AHS and outside by connecting them to community programs and services.

“What I love most about my work is that I am able to build trust and connections with patients and provide them with the education and tools to destigmatize the process of ‘getting help,’” shared Muñoz.

Binita Shaw, an IBH intern currently pursuing her Master of Social Work (MSW) from San Jose State University shares Muñoz’s passion and shared commitment to helping underserved communities which started from an early age.

“Growing up in a brown community, I’ve seen people not understand or accept their mental health issues because of the stigma that comes with it,” she said. A child of refugees from Nepal, Shaw came to the United States at 10 years old. “As I grew older, I saw my parents and other people needing help so I started volunteering as a translator at hospitals and welfare offices.”

In celebration of Social Work Month, Shaw recently led a project to showcase the invaluable role AHS social workers play in addressing the mental, emotional, social and practical needs of patients.

To highlight the value they bring and the difference they make in lives of our patients every day Shaw went straight to the source. She created an anonymous survey to solicit feedback from both patients and staff about their experience with AHS social work teams in both inpatient and outpatient settings.

See survey responses that are a testament to the compassionate care and selfless dedication of our social workers to better the lives of the patients and communities they serve:

At AHS our social workers are vital to delivering on our mission and serving all patients with dignity, respect and the compassionate care they deserve. Join us in celebrating their contributions in building better and healthier lives.