Ramón Matos: Setting the Bar High


“After graduation, I waited tables while I waited for my big break on Broadway.” AHP Behavioral Health Services Manager Ramón Matos, LMFT recounted the tale from his Puerto Rican childhood to his journey into theatre and his current role at AHP. Ramon offered us his stories of his dream of joining the church, his enrollment in Niagara University’s St. Vincent de Paul Seminary, coming out during his sophomore year, his change from divinity to theater major, and his post-graduate attempt to make it in theater, winding his way to HIV/AIDS and mental health services.

In New York, Matos said he was mainly concerned with paying the bills and looking for jobs. But when his then-boyfriend sat him down to watch the South African film Cry Freedom, something shifted. “There were all these things happening in the world that I didn’t know about,” Ramón recollected. “It made me sit up and pay attention. I was so ignorant, so sheltered from all the terrible things happening around me. Paying attention turned into wanting to do something.”

The urge to “do something” pushed Ramón to travel further than he’d thought he would. For three years starting in 1984, he worked in telecommunications in Atlanta before heading to London for another three years. When he finally landed in San Francisco in 1990, Ramón jumped into the HIV and mental health field, working his way up from administrative roles to therapist to program manager.

“In those days, being gay and having AIDS were synonymous,” Matos recalled. And it was “the first time that the medical profession had to deal with the emotional impact of watching people die from something they did not fully understand.” Heart-wrenching scenes were everyday occurrences for case managers like Ramón, who worked on Ward 86, the outpatient AIDS clinic at San Francisco General Hospital. Watching his clients struggle with their emotional as well as physical health inspired Matos to become a licensed therapist.

“I’m here,” Matos stated firmly, “because of all the people who came before, who laid the foundation for multidimensional mental health treatment.”

Now he manages the programs that comprise AHP’s Behavioral Health Services; Matos is in charge of overseeing the crisis team, the substance use team, the group support program, and the individual therapy team, as well as the clinical internship program, which selects from a large pool of applicants 14 novice therapists to offer therapy under AHP’s supervision. All of these different ways of helping focus on easing the emotional and psychological suffering by nurturing clients’ strengths, using harm reduction strategies, and remaining client-centered. AHP’s groups, in particular, reduce isolation and build community.

Asked what personal characteristics most influence his work, Matos said, “I bring that sense of community to my work. As a Puerto Rican, it doesn’t surprise me that I’m an LMFT. We value community, and we value helping one another. How could I not bring that into my work?”

When he’s not leading a talented team of therapists and social workers, Matos enjoys a good work out and is a big believer in practicing self-care whenever he can. He does yoga, cares for his dogs, and travels with his partner to see family and friends.

“Ramon was my first supervisor, when I first came to AHP some 12 years ago,” Chance Wade-Ramos, AHP Case Manager, said. “He set the bar very high. . . . To this day, I still hold myself to that bar of high standards.”

Wade-Ramos added, “I’m glad that he’s my manager: he has the leadership qualities to make AHP even better.” We couldn’t agree more. Thank you for your service!