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Our History

The Peer Wellness Collective, formerly known as Alameda County Network of Mental Health Clients (ACNMHC) was born out of the activism and organizing of the 1960s and '70s.  As psychiatric institutions, known for inhumane treatment and isolation, were shut down throughout the 1950s and 60's many former psychiatric inmates found one another and connected about their experiences.  There was a nationwide movement for the civil and human rights of people with mental health challenges, alongside other movements lead by Black folks, Indigenous Peoples, LGBTQIA+ individuals, womxn, Latinx (Latino/Latina) folks, and people with disabilities. 

Primarily focused on the abuses they had experienced within the mental health system, this movement of ex-patients or psychiatric survivors created peer-run programs to support one another.  This was the beginning of the consumer movement.

Peer Wellness Collective was founded in 1988 by pioneers of this movement to support peer-run, self-help services for people with mental health and/or substance use challenges in Alameda County, CA. Today we have 5 programs in the "Network" led by people who have lived-experience* within the mental health community.

lived-experience: “We are experts by experience—people who have lived with mental health conditions, people who've been suicidal, people who are trauma survivors. That is just as valuable as the kind of academic credentials that people earn. And it’s incredibly important that we work together as partners.”-Leah Harris (a person who has lived with suicidal thoughts or behavior).

Our Mission and Values


Our Mission Statement:

The mission of the Peer Wellness Collective, as a BIPoC* Peer*-Led and operated Network, is to provide culturally responsive mental health* services, specifically by and for folx historically underserved and/or inappropriately served in order to create a just, safe, and healthy community for all.

The Peer Wellness Collective adheres to the following values: 
We emphasize the value of Community
Our values are Peer-driven
We value and promote Mental Health
We are committed to Equity
We hold ourselves Accountable

*BIPoC - Black, Indigenous, People of Color

*Peer - A peer is a person who draws on lived experience with mental illness and/or substance use disorder and recovery, bolstered by specialized training, to deliver valuable support services in a mental health and/or substance use setting. - as California Senate Bill 803

(h) “Peer support specialist services” means culturally competent services that promote engagement, socialization, recovery, self-sufficiency, self-advocacy, development of natural supports, and identification of strengths. Peer support specialist services include, but are not limited to, prevention services, support, coaching, facilitation, or education that is individualized and is conducted by a certified peer support specialist.

(i) “Recovery” means a process of change through which an individual improves their health and wellness, lives a self-directed life, and strives to reach their full potential. This process of change recognizes cultural diversity and inclusion and honors the different routes to resilience and recovery based on the individual and their cultural community.

*Mental Health is - holistic and whole-person. Mental health is Peer Support, harm reduction, substance use support, supportive housing, employment support, financial support, spiritual support, and most importantly: self-determined and person-driven. 

Covers of the psychiatric survivor newsletter Madness Network News 
from the start of the consumer movement.
Sally Zinman, consumer advocate and co-founder, with Katrina Killian, Executive Director,
at our 25th Anniversary celebration in 2014.
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