BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Rita Gonzales, Chair, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lisa Marie Gallegos, Treasurer/Secretary
Ramon Escobedo Jr.
Robert Contreras (he/el), President & CEO
Robert Contreras has worked for Bienestar Human Services (BIENESTAR) since 1991. He currently serves as the President and Chief Executive Officer and is fully fluent in Spanish and English. During his tenure at BIENESTAR, he has held several leadership positions such as Program Director, Human Resources Manager, and Director of Finance and Administration. He has had oversight for all operations and programs of the agency.
Oscar De La O (he/el), Vice-President, email@example.com
Oscar De La O is a founding member and served as President/CEO of Bienestar Human Services from 1989 to 2019. Oscar has been an advocate for Latinos affected by HIV and AIDS for over 38 years. His community involvement represents over forty years of service and advocacy on behalf of the community, including the LGBT and immigrant communities around issues of access to health care, social justice and human rights. His love for and dedication to the community came from his mother who instilled in him the need to serve others to have a fulfilling and rewarding life. Oscar makes it a priority to hold true to his “grassroots” identity in his community work and interactions. He firmly believes in the empowerment and the full and active participation of all segments of the community are key factors in achieving positive health outcomes and wellbeing.
Since 2020, Oscar De La O serves as Vice-President of Bienestar Human Services and is involved with many community organizations and has served on the boards of the Mexican-American Political Association, National Minority AIDS Council, Latinos Unidos, the Children’s Leukemia Society of Ensenada, Mexico, Hate Violence Prevention Partnership, and the National Latinx/Hispanic HIV, STI and Hepatitis C Working Group.
Oscar and Bienestar have received numerous recognitions and awards for their many years of community services. These acknowledgements are recognition of the organization’s values and commitment to the Latino community. Oscar always acknowledges Bienestar’s past and present employees and volunteers who have contributed to the organization’s legacy.
Oscar De La O sees his future wherever opportunities are available to promote and create change toward a healthier society, one founded upon principles of access to health, social and economic empowerment, and democratic justice.
Brendan O’Connell (he/el), MSW, Chief Operating Officer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Brendan O’Connell is the Chief Operation Officer at Bienestar Human Services. Brendan oversee’s BIENESTAR’s Behavioral Health Services comprised of outpatient mental health and substance abuse treatment; Prevention Services which includes HIV/HCV/STI screening, linkage to medical care, behavioral interventions, food bank, HOPWA and Harm Reduction. Before joining BIENESTAR Brendan worked in NYC with PLWH, the LGBTQ communities, and formerly incarcerated people, at ACRIA (AIDS Community Research Initiative of America) The Fortune Society and the Center for Community Alternatives. In 2007 he graduated from the University of Milwaukee-Wisconsin with a Bachelors of Social Work. In 2012 he completed his Masters of Social Work from Fordham University.
Ruben Cruz Juarez (he/him), Contracts and Grants Administrator, email@example.com
Ruben is a USC Gould School of Law graduate with a Master of Laws Degree and a Business Law Certificate. Contract Law is the area of law that he loves the most. During law school, internship, and social service, Ruben worked with Universidad Iberoamericana’s Human Rights Department where he had the opportunity to work closely with women in prison. He was in charge of receiving complaints and referring them to the proper governmental agencies. His law thesis was about propositions to reform Puebla’s criminal law to ensure equal justice, labor, and educational opportunities for women in prison.
Esmeralda Gasca (she/ella), Accountant, Financial Services, firstname.lastname@example.org
Esmeralda is a tax accountant professional and has been working with Bienestar since 2013. She graduated cum laude from Cal State L.A. with a dual Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Computer Information Systems and a minor in Economics and French in 2001. She then went on to finish her master’s degree in Taxation in 2008. She has worked for many industries but has found a home in the non-profit sector. She finds it interesting and challenging, but above all enjoys working with numbers and budgets. She has been married for 14 years and is a mother of two wonderful children. In her spare time, she loves staying home and watch movies with the family, reading, and doing puzzles.
Linda Pacheco (she/ella), Human Resources, email@example.com
Linda Pacheco attended CSULB, majoring in Criminal Justice. Her first experience working in Human Resources was at a non-profit whose mission was to empower low-income, immigrant, and at-risk youth to overcome barriers to success by providing education, employment, and social service programs. She has experienced working in other industries; however, she enjoys working for the non-profit industry the most, to support in the efforts to make a difference in our community.
Mayra A. Hernandez, ACSW, MSW (she/ella), Clinic Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org,
Mayra Hernandez is an Associate Clinical Social Worker. She is the Clinic Manager of Clínica Bienestar at Bienestar Human Services, Inc. She has been with the agency for the past five years, starting as an MSW intern and transitioning into a full-time Medical Case Manager, a Mental Health Clinician and now a Clinic Manager. She currently oversees the daily operations of our amazing clinic. Mayra received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a Minor is Spanish from California State University, San Bernardino, and her master’s in Social Work from the University of Southern California. Mayra has experience working with the LGBTQ+ community, adults impacted by HIV, substance use disorder, and trauma. She enjoys working at Bienestar because she gets to continue to advocate for the community she loves.
Behavioral Health Services
Nery Alvarado (she/ella), LCSW, Director of Behavioral Health, email@example.com
Nery Alvarado is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She is the Director of Behavioral Health at Bienestar Human Services, Inc. She has been with the agency for the past nine years, starting as an MSW intern and transitioning into a full-time mental health clinician. She currently oversees all mental health and substance abuse programs, as well as our Graduate Level Internship program, where she is a Field Instructor and continues to see clients for individual mental health sessions. Nery received her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology with Administrative Studies from the University of California, Riverside and her Master in Social Work degree from the University of Southern California. Nery has experience working with children, youth and adults. Her focus has been working with the LGBTQ+ community, adults impacted by HIV, substance use disorder, and trauma. She utilizes a variety of modalities such as Motivational Interviewing (MI), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Psychodynamic, as well as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) in her practice to best serve her client’s needs.
Miguel Romero (he/el), ACSW, MSW, PPSC, Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org
Miguel Romero has been employed with Bienestar Human Services, Inc. going on four and a half years as the Center Lead for the South Los Angeles site and Program Manager for their intensive, outpatient treatment program, New Dawn, which caters to the adult MSM (men who have sex with men) population. He is also a Mental Health Clinician who provides individual one-on-one therapy to adults battling co-occurring disorders and provides guidance and support as a MSW Field Instructor (FI) training graduate-level interns obtaining experience in the social work field and receiving their MSW degree. Mr. Romero received both his Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Master’s in Social Work with a CYWF (Children, Youth, Women and Families) concentration at California State University, Los Angeles. Mr. Romero furthered his education to obtain his Pupil Personnel Services Credentials (PPSC) at California State University, Long Beach, and gained much experience working with troubled school youth from grades K-12th, including those with special needs. His focus is now centered on the LGBTQ+ community and working with those who are deeply impacted by substance use, HIV, complex trauma, internalized homophobia, attachment, loss, etc. Mr. Romero utilizes a variety of modalities such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Motivational Interviewing (MI), Psychodynamic therapy, and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) to best serve his clients.
Health + Support Services
Brenda Gonzalez (she/ella), Transgeneros Unidas (TU) Program Manager, email@example.com
I am a transgender Latina immigrant born in Michoacan Mexico. I studied business administration at the Autonomous University of Guadalajara and arrived in Los Angeles in March 1995, on the day of my mother’s birthday. I now have seniority in my career, having worked for Bienestar for over 20 years as a representative and leader for the HIV+ Latinx transgender community, advocating for trans rights, social justice and health.
Elly Jalayer (she/ella), Harm Reduction Manager, Harm Reduction Program, firstname.lastname@example.org
Elly moved to California six years ago after graduating from CUNY Hunter with a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition. But after losing a number of people she loved to preventable overdose deaths, Elly believed her skills lied elsewhere and dedicated her life to helping negate the war on drugs and help keep people who use drugs alive. She volunteered with Los Angeles Community Health Project for two years before starting her career in harm reduction. Now, as the Harm Reduction Manager at Bienestar, Elly continues to break down barriers for people who use drugs and need access to quality care.
Ronald A. Brooks (he/el), Ph.D., Interim Director, email@example.com
Joanna Barreras (she/ella), MSW, Ph.D., Associate Program Director, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Joanna Barreras is the Associate Director of Research and Evaluation at Bienestar Human Services, Inc. Her scholarly work focuses on addressing comorbidities and disparities linked to HIV among Latinx—as health inequities continue to affect Latinx communities. Specifically, she aims to develop and test culturally responsive interventions to improve health care service utilization among vulnerable populations. As a first-generation Mexican American born and raised in East Los Angeles, CA, a predominantly Latinx community, Dr. Barreras witnessed the lack of health care access and utilization at the individual and community levels. These personal experiences drive her passion to generate knowledge that examines and seeks to address these gaps. Dr. Barreras draws upon over a decade of research experience on Latinx health and mental health disparities, eight of which include research with the sexual and gender diverse communities and HIV prevention and intervention. She has contributed to several community-based initiatives and professional undertakings that address the needs of disenfranchised and marginalized groups. Dr. Barreras strives to continue promoting science and the importance of increasing capacity-building on intersectional stigma and discrimination and mistrust around care related to HIV prevention and treatment. Outside of work, Joanna enjoys hiking local trails and watching the sunrise.
Ying-Tung Chen (he/el), MS, Statistical Evaluation Manager, email@example.com
Ying-Tung Chen, M.S., is the Statistical Evaluation Manager in the Research and Evaluation Department of Bienestar Human Services in Los Angeles, California. He received a master’s degree in biostatistics from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). For the past twelve years, he has been responsible for providing statistical support for research projects in the areas of study design, data extraction, appropriate statistical analysis and interpretation of results. He also has been analyzing a variety of research and program data, using appropriate statistical methods and computer techniques/software to data analysis. In addition, he has created and maintained statistical and informational databases and prepared summary data for research publications, conference presentations and programs evaluation. Since 2013, he has coauthored eight publications in peer reviewed journals.
Ricardo Lepe (he/el), MMTCP, MA, Ph.D., Bilingual Research Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Ricardo Mendoza Lepe is a research coordinator at Bienestar Human Services. He was born in Jalisco, Mexico and moved to the US in his late teens. He received a BA in psychology from the University of California Berkeley. He received his MA and Ph.D. in Social Psychology at Claremont Graduate University. He received a certificate in political psychology from Stanford University and acquired a certificate in teaching mindfulness from the International Mindfulness Teacher’s Association in affiliation with Greater Good Science Center and the Awareness Training Institute. In his doctoral work, he specialized in intergroup attitude change. He developed a story of an undocumented immigrant and quantitatively tested the effectiveness of narrative transportation in changing attitudes towards individuals of that group membership and the group in general. He has also researched intra-group dynamics among Latino/a immigrants in the US. His present work focuses on Latino/a immigrant population issues, particularly HIV prevention needs of Latino immigrant sexual minority men (LSMM). Dr. Lepe is currently involved in a research project with Drs. Bogart and Brooks to implement an intervention to support the development of adaptive coping strategies for LSMM experiencing intersectional stigma related to immigration status, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. He is also interested in exploring what challenges LSMM encounter in accessing needed resources and services that can support general health outcomes and specifically the prevention of HIV infection. Dr. Lepe’s work explores how we might make structural level changes for LSMM who experience power differentials present in society. Dr. Lepe is also interested in exploring mistrust in science and research among Latino/a populations. He recently began working with the University of Alabama at Birmingham putting together and conducting a series of mindfulness workshops with immigrant Latino men and women.
Quality Management Committee
Silvia Valerio (she/ella), Testing and Linkage to Care Coordinator, email@example.com
Silvia Valerio has been an HIV positive activist since 1991. She has been working in the HIV field since 1997. Silvia has experience working with the Latinx Community, offering prevention and education services for the LGBT and HIV positive community. For more than 23 years Silvia has offered different programs and services at Bienestar, including peer navigation and support, prevention and counseling for positives, and linkage to care for newly diagnosed individuals. In 2001 Silvia was a spokesperson for the national Social Marketing campaign “HIV STOPS WITH ME,” aimed at preventing new infections and to reduce the HIV/AIDS stigma.
From 2008 to 2010 Silvia lead the Client Services Department at BIENESTAR and was part of adherence research for HIV positive MSM in antiretroviral therapy as a research interviewer in collaboration with Charles Drew University and Children’s Hospital of Boston. From 2012-2017 Silvia was part of the TransActivate project, part of a HRSA special project for the Latina transgender community in LA County.
In addition to that, Silvia has experience as a community organizer in various leadership roles. She has conducted a skill building program for the Latinx Community recently diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. This program is called Caminando Juntos. This Program focuses on self esteem, spirituality and personal development as ways to live healthy with HIV. Currently Silvia is the Testing and Linkage to Care Coordinator. which includes ADAP enrollment, and COVID-19 awareness in the Latinx community.