Newsletter Article

Meet Kim Flores, CalHOPE Project Manager

In this series about CalMHSA staff – called Why Are You Here? – we offer a profile of our colleagues and why they’ve chosen to contribute their skills to the work we do.

Having had a 25-year career with the state Legislature, Kim Flores did the opposite of what most people do when they retire: she opted for an even bigger challenge.

“When I decided to retire from the Legislature I knew I still wanted to work, and friends would ask, ‘Well, what do you want to do?,’ and as I thought about it, I realized I wanted to work in behavioral health because to me, changing individual behavior is the hardest thing to do, but the key to managing many behavioral and physical health care challenges.”

Fortunately for CalMHSA, Kim’s commitment to behavioral health was realized when she stepped in to help build the CalHOPE Crisis Counseling Program (CCP).

“CalHOPE started as a nine-month initiative in 2020, and with Kim’s leadership and dedication to equity, it has resulted in additional funding to continue the program through June of 2024,” said CalMHSA Senior Program Director Jeremy Wilson.

The idea of statewide crisis counseling began as a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In California, the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) worked with the County Behavioral Health Directors Association to design the CCP, and DHCS called it CalHOPE, its umbrella program name for disaster response initiatives.

When it was decided that CalMHSA would lead the crisis counseling component for the state, Kim was brought in to lead the team that would design the program using federal requirements and state parameters, create an RFP, issue contracts, build an innovative chat app, train contractors and counselors, and launch it all by March of 2021.

“Outreach is always the most important thing. We knew that if we were going to reach Californians community by community and really create awareness with folks who needed this counseling, we would need to partner with the community-based organizations that can connect with those individuals in their languages,” Kim said.

Today, the program includes 21 subcontractors serving diverse populations and geographies throughout the state.

During her 25 years in the Legislature as a principal consultant in the State Senate, Kim worked on myriad state budget and policy issues, including covering social services programs, Medi-Cal, and federal and state health care reform. She also served in the Office of the California Surgeon General and worked as a consultant for the County Behavioral Health Directors Association.

“When I began my career at the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the first budget I worked on was with the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs,” she said. “I spent two-and-a-half years visiting with county directors who were responding to the crack epidemic. I visited methadone clinics, addiction treatment centers, and numerous outpatient programs. The county directors were inspiring; they were helping a neglected population while also showing compassion. I enjoyed working with them and learning from them.”

Working with CalMHSA on the CalHOPE program has brought her full circle – to a place where she can apply her decades of expertise and experience in state policy to the very personal issues that are among the state’s most challenging to solve.

No longer supported by FEMA, CalHOPE crisis counseling has received continued state funding through DHCS. Under Kim’s guidance, it has evolved into an even more inclusive and expansive set of services.

“Many of the materials are now translated into multiple languages, and we increased providers’ pay so it’s more equitable. We also gave the agencies more outreach funds and flexibility in using the funds. In essence, we’ve given the agencies more authority to decide how to best serve their communities, which is why we selected them in the first place.”

June 27, 2023