My Peer Service Work


 I couldn’t get a job in the entire State of Texas in mental health or anything related to mental health, when my contract was expiring with the Corporation for National Service last August 31, 2011.  Nobody would hire me.  Nobody would touch me.  Everything that I’d interviewed for was sidelined, not funded, or jobs given to lesser qualified mediocrity.  Grants that I’d written, collaborated on, partnered with went unfunded.

After I had met and talked with Lena Caballero, Advanced WRAP Facilitator and State of Texas Certified Peer Specialist who was working at MHA Tarrant County, about a Wellness Center that she dreamed about opening in the DFW Metroplex, I told her I’d help her.  She hired me and I started as Project Management in September of 2011.  We merged my nonprofit 501c3 organization, HOPE Project with The Hope Concept Wellness LLC Center and collaborate well together.  We opened our doors for service on November 11, 2011 (11.11.11) with cake, food aplenty, friends and family gushing love, hope, and recovery and a dream was born.  The best answer I can give you about the “hybridness” of our business model and our structure is to gently explain it away in terms of this model allowing us maximum access and full benefit to divergent funding streams which are both public and private.

Those were exciting times and working with Lena has meant that I’m exposed to a beautiful woman who is world class in her ability to present and to engage her very loved community.  I get to see the magic first hand.  I have only seen this one other time.  Her expression and touch is a broad one and is one which is exceptional and meaningful.

My work in peer service stems from the giving back to my community, yes, but it’s more than that.  I do it because I can’t do anything else.  I love this work.  I love consumer 1:1 contact and prefer to be in the background otherwise because I don’t like attention.  It embarrasses me.

I was recently accepted into the via HOPE Texas Mental Health Resource Network’s Advanced Certified Peer Specialist Training later this month and this is something I’m doing for me… I look forward to the opportunity to wake up, take my time, get ready for class, and go to trainers who are there because of me and my compatriots.

Good times.

Lena and my 1st national conference, “Wellness Solutions 1.0 Uncensored Innovation” is being held in the City of Freedom (Philadelphia) on September 4-5 at the Sheraton Society Hill Hotel a block away from the Liberty Bell.  How cool is that?  People are asking Lena and me, “So… let me get this straight…. You’re in Texas so why is your conference in Philadelphia?”  Hard, honest answers to these and then they understand and by far and large are planning to attend and join us.

Our intentions for holding Wellness Solutions 1.0 is simply to be able to offer up a national-class venue where many from the US Peer Leadership and US Provider Leadership can be accessed in the flesh.  It’s a place that we intended to allow for excellent networking, a worthwhile program, to presenters with integrity… and to hallmark medication optimization and harm reduction within the context of wellness solutions for those of us living with and managing our body, mind and spirit.

This is a place where Robert Whitaker, New York TIMES Bestseller of “Anatomy of An Epidemic” and “Mad In America” can stand out as an idea that has found its’ time.  My experience is a traumatic one which I deal with today by being quiet, mindful and I try to listen to others more carefully.  If holding an educational and outreach opportunity with this venue works for others who are in my shoes, then why not?

We are hosting the Recovered Dignity Memorial at both WS 1.0 and at NAOPS which follows our conference on September 6-8, 2012 in the same hotel, on the same site.  There is much ado around national certification and framing it within peer services being accepted as a civil rights issue.  If you’re interested in WS 1.0, check out my work’s website at and scroll over to our program or biographies page of presenters.

A couple of highlights – but all of our panels, workshops and institutes are excellent – is going to be Dr. Peggy Swarbrick, Dr. Dan Fisher and David Bucciferro’s Institute on Health Homes and the Innovations of Peer Supports as a primary caregiver and provider.  Sue Bergeson and Peter Ashenden’s Institute on Financial Sustainability and Peer Run Organizations proves to be powerful and honest.


There are two local (East Coast) panels.  One is the Pennsylvania Story and the other is the State of Delaware Peer history and current state of exciting news.  I was talking with Gayle Bluebird today, who is chairing the co-presentation on Delaware Peer Services Innovations and she was telling me about growth.  Then there’s Lena Caballero, Mark Salzer, Gareth Fenley, Moe Armstrong, Laura Van Tosh, Gitane Williams, Gina Calhoun, Matthew Federici, Ron Manderscheid, Cheryl Sharp, and, and, and… 20+ national peer leaders for 2 days, 2 nights.

There is a special reception get-together with Bob on the first afternoon at 5:15 on September 4th.

I guess the most important thing that I get from working on this conference is that I feel like I’m helping the movement forward in any way that we can help, and this is one way that both Lena and I know how to help.

A buddy of mine, Gary Hurst, who lives nearly in Shreveport, Louisiana, but is located remotely in East Texas told me tonight that I was “doing a lot of right” and after I thanked him, I said that it’s all about peer services and peer supports.  Wellness Solutions 1.0 is largely a national peer provided, peer centered conference on what matters to us now.    I’m grateful to be able to be of service, when it comes right down to it, and I genuinely am thankful there’s a you to give back to.


Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


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