Heliana Ramirez is a licensed social worker with twenty years of experience related to diversity, equity, and inclusion in behavioral health care settings. From designing and facilitating clinical training programs addressing health disparities to implementing and evaluating behavioral health evidence-based and community-defined interventions with diverse communities, her work centers on the strengths and resiliencies of people most impacted by social determinants of health. Dr. Ramirez has worked with African American, Latinx, Native American, Asian Ancestry, Pacific Islander, LGBTQ+, Veteran, and justice involved communities addressing issues of trauma (i.e., racial, combat, and sexual trauma, and LGBTQ hate crimes), substance use, and recovery from intrusive thoughts, hallucinations, suicidal crises, sleep disturbance, sexual health problems, and feelings of depression, anxiety, and mania. As a researcher, she delights most in community based participatory research methods and democratized media production including VideoVoice (she produced The Camouflage Closet) and digital storytelling.
In addition to direct service, Dr. Ramirez has also supported cross-cultural clinical skill development with students and colleagues. As a graduate student, Heliana co-taught an Intergroup Dialogue course for Masters level social work students, preparing them to work with clients from various racial and ethnic groups, across religious and spiritual difference, sexual orientation, gender identities, and class. As an instructor, Dr. Ramirez led experiential activities regarding implicit bias and cultural humility. As Associate Project Director of the SAMHSA funded Pacific Southwest Mental Health Technology Transfer Center (MHTTC), Dr. Ramirez designed and facilitated a series of diversity-focused professional development sessions for peer specialists, social workers, psychologists, and school mental health leaders entitled “Discussions that Matter in 2020.” This 3-month discussion series included didactic learning about systemic racism and racial health disparities amplified by COVID-19 and Affinity Group break out dialogues (i.e., Black, Latinx, Asian Ancestry, Middle Eastern, Native American, Pacific Islander, Mixed Race, and White Affinity Groups). As Director of the Crisis and Recovery Enhancement (CARE) TA Center, Dr. Ramirez organized a virtual conference “Listening, Learning, and Leading: Anti-racism in the California Crisis continuum of Care” and designed an Anti-racist Crisis Care Continuum and Justice Diversion Action Learning Event Series including workshops to help audiences apply learning to their work. At the Veterans Affairs, Dr. Ramirez founded an LGBT Veteran Care Coordinator Program, an LGBT Staff and Allies Special Emphasis Program and served on the national VA Office of Diversity and Inclusion LGBT Program where she co-authored the VA’s employment policy for gender transition at work.