Upside: San Mateo County to invest $1M to fight loneliness – Supervisor Canepa

Canepa: County to invest

$1M to fight loneliness

REDWOOD CITY, California  – Loneliness is real, it’s normal – despite common notion that it afflicts only specific populations, and it’s definitely widespread.  

US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy last year issued an advisory on loneliness as a national epidemic.  The San Mateo Board of Supervisors in a resolution this February declared the same a public health crisis and the City of Daly City weeks later proclaimed it a public health emergency.

Supervisor David Canepa, who introduced the resolution unanimously approved by the board, reinforced his call to action last week for concerted response to the often unseen condition.

“Loneliness affects everyone, including me,” said the representative for District 5 covering Daly City, Colma, unincorporated Broadmoor, Brisbane and parts of South San Francisco and San Bruno.  “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel:  We can build on what nonprofit organizations are doing and create a template” to address loneliness effectively.

“The bottom line is we cannot have our nonprofits doing the work if we don’t invest in nonprofits,” Canepa said at “Loneliness Awareness and Solutions Initiative,” the April 3 edition of the Thought Leader Series organized by Peninsula Family Service (PFS) in collaboration with San Mateo County and UCSF geriatricians Carla Perissinotto and Ashwin Kotwal, Peninsula Health Care District CEO Ana Pulido and Foster City Village Board President Pam Frisella.

To drive his point home, Canepa announced that the Board of Supervisors “is committed to giving $1 million to Peninsula Family Service” for its programs providing children, families, and older adults the support and tools to fulfill their full potential and lead healthy, stable lives.

Founded in 1950, PFS has programs in the counties of San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito and Santa Cruz. 


“We have known for a long time that loneliness can silently affect the lives of anyone, regardless of age, gender, economic status, or cultural background,” said CEO Heather Cleary. “At Peninsula Family Service we are focusing on enhancing programmatic solutions, while prioritizing care and connections to end loneliness in our community.  Ultimately, ending the loneliness epidemic requires action from our community and we are proud to be part of the first county in the country to bring attention to the loneliness epidemic.”

PFS offers peer counseling, group and one-on-one meetings, recreation and health activities, technology navigation and nutrition, and affordable transportation for older adults.  It also provides employment assistance for adults and financial literacy workshops for both adults and youths.

“But we can do more,” Cleary stressed at the panel discussion heard by over 150 community stakeholders at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Community Space here.


Loneliness is “subjective,” a feeling of missing connections that can be “distressing,” Perissinotto defined the issue in her keynote.

There are people who are alone but do not feel distressed by it, and then there are people affected by lack of connection and feel socially isolated, she said, explaining that loneliness and isolation are different but related.  

Technology has given society communication options and allowed virtual contact vital during the pandemic, but nothing can take the place of personal interaction, Persinnotto said in closing her presentation.

Kotwal emphasized the importance of informing those who feel lonely and looking for social connection to resources that can help them overcome such feelings.

Pulido highlighted her organization’s new program called allcove aimed at “addressing youth mental health… increasing community connection and giving access to culturally responsive services for youth ages 12 to 25.” The program is “for and by young people,” making them “co-creators and champions,” she said.

While a growing concern since the mid-2000s, loneliness surged with the pandemic lockdown and continues to beset individuals across the board.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the issue is a “serious threat to our mental and physical health” that costs the US economy around $406 billion annually.  Loneliness has been linked to “heart disease and stroke, Type 2 diabetes, depression and anxiety, suicidality and self-harm, dementia and earlier death,” according to the nation’s leading public health organization.

(Cherie Querol Moreno is Philippine News Today Executive Editor.  She manages PFS Got Wheels! Transportation Program.  For more information visit