As Director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH), Dr. Grant Colfax brings his experience and expertise in leading local and national initiatives that strengthen successful behavioral and mental health outcomes of the diverse communities he serves. Hand-picked by San Francisco Mayor London Breed to lead DPH in 2019, he would go on to guide the city and county through the darkest days of the COVID pandemic, drawing on his time as President Obama’s Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy. His approach to epidemics and pandemics at the national and local level has been “ensuring that we’re responsive to the needs of the community and following the data and science.”

Community engagement, a cornerstone of Felton Institute’s service approach, is an important aspect of Dr. Colfax’s problem-solving technique. The early years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic was a time wrought with fear, needless deaths, and misinformation. As science and cultural attitudes began to shift in the latter years of the epidemic, elevating the voices of individuals and community members directly impacted by HIV/AIDS was seen as paramount. “Bringing together science, data and facts with regard to what worked in addressing HIV,” Dr. Colfax explained, was vital to ensure “that people with lived experiences, and the community most affected by HIV, were in the room helping us make key policy decisions.” These key policy decisions were apparent in the rollout of the Affordable Care Act. “I was there when the Affordable Care Act was being implemented,” Dr. Colfax explained, adding, “Our work with HIV and the national HIV/AIDS strategy synergized with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to ensure that more people than ever had access to high quality, preventative, and lifesaving care.” Dr. Colfax would later utilize these successes in responding to a global pandemic.

The COVID pandemic, also a time of misinformation, fear, and countless deaths, began early on in Dr. Colfax’s tenure as Director of Public Health. Dr. Colfax brought his expertise of preventative and lifesaving care to the city and county of San Francisco, adhering to science, data, and community engagement to save lives. “Our focus was really on ensuring that we were able to… flatten the curve and save as many lives as possible.” Adding that the response was “really harnessing the power of science, but also, the power of community together to make sure that we were being as responsive and supportive as possible.” Supporting essential workers and ensuring that the community came first and had access to life-saving vaccines, Dr. Colfax emphasized, “We had a very low death rate in San Francisco; only a quarter of what the national rate was and half of what the rate was in California.” Harkening back to his role in the White House he said, “It’s really using the fundamental approaches of following the data and science and engaging the community through key decisions about how to implement the response to a pandemic.”

Felton Institute is a proud recipient of funding from the San Francisco Department of Public Health empowering us to serve the behavioral and mental health needs of the community. Felton’s programs and services are community-led, uplifting the lived experiences of all we serve. Dr. Colfax elucidated, “Felton is a partner in the work that we’re doing together across the city to address behavioral health services.” Adding, “Felton has been a real leader in peer-driven intervention.”


Felton Institute responds to the needs of our community by providing innovative, evidence-informed social services to transform lives. Our organization offers 50+ programs that address mental health, the unhoused, early care and education, those impacted by the justice system, transitional age youth, as well as aging adults. Our award-winning programs, which have been recognized as national models, combine the latest scientific research with cultural sensitivity and a deep commitment to supporting and reflecting the communities we serve.

Founded in 1889, Felton is the oldest secular non-profit social services provider in the City and County of San Francisco. We have expanded our services across most Bay Area counties and continue to be at the forefront of pioneering new approaches to meet the emerging needs of underserved populations.

We know what it looks like to successfully build community.

We foster impactful change by strengthening the community as a premiere service provider. We also strengthen other service providers by supporting them in their fiscal, human resources, communications, IT and overall agency operations. With Felton’s support, they are able to focus on providing the best services to their clients, doing the work they were meant to do.

Felton empowers the community and ensures successful outcomes to all we engage with.

Felton Institute is a tax-exempt organization registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit under EIN 94-1156530.