Out of the Darkness to Become the Light – Mental Health Conference

Melba E. Smith, Assistant Program Manager of Goodwill’s Wellness and Advocacy Center, presented at the first annual Mental Health Conference at Community Baptist Church. Her remarkable presentation received a standing ovation.

Join us May 5, 2017, 12-1:30 p.m., for “Housing as a Fundamental Need”

A place to call our own, who doesn’t need one? Some don’t, there are certainly those among the homeless who choose to be homeless. What about those for whom homelessness isn’t a choice? What has their story been? How does their journey intersect with mental health? Join us as we explore how a place to call our own shapes our mental health and wellness and what we can do it about it.

“The Interconnectedness of All Things” 2017 Series

March 3rd  – History of the Peer Movement – Sally Zinman                            

  • Join us for a telling of the history of the peer movement. It began as a reaction the psychiatric model. The peer movement has had a colorful and vibrant history growing from its violent reaction against the oppression it experienced from the medical model to the now self-informed, self-directed response and cooperation with the established mental health world, government, and legal systems.

  • Sally Zinman, is a pioneer in the consumer movement who has been doing advocacy work for more than 30 years. As a young woman, Ms Zinman was locked up and tortured in a so-called mental health institution (check out her story).  After discovering others with similar histories, Ms Zinman became a passionate and ground breaking activist in the militant madness movement.As the Founder and Coordinator of the Coalition for Alternatives in Mental Health, aka Berkeley Drop-In Center, Sally Zinman led efforts for state and national funding for recovery peer-based models of mental health treatment.

April 7th – Holistic Health – Wendy Wheelwright

  • Join us for a presentation of the fundamental core necessities for vibrant human health. Whether you consider yourself a peer or not, these fundamental needs are vital for any human being seeking to attain optimal wellness.

  • Wendy Wheelwright is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in Trauma-Based Disorders and Forensic Therapy.  She was formerly the Director of the Crisis-Residential Unit for Progress Foundation for 9 years.  Currently, she is the Workforce Education and Training Coordinator for Sonoma County Behavioral Health.  She is also a Professor at the University of San Francisco in the Masters Program for MFTs, and she has a private practice in the community.  When she’s not doing her “work,” Wendy is an opera singer.

May 5th – Housing as a Fundamental Need – Adrienne Lauby, Charlene Love

                 and Michael Gause                                                                                                

  • A place to call our own. Who doesn’t need one? Maybe some don’t, there are certainly those among the homeless who choose to be homeless. What about those for whom homelessness isn’t their preferred choice? What has their story been? How does their journey intersect with mental health? Join us as we explore how a place to call our own shapes our mental health and wellness and what we can do about it.

  • Adrienne Lauby is a bisexual, feminist and disability activist who lives with asthma.  She helps produce “Pushing Limits,” KPFA radio’s disability program and works with Homeless Action!, an action-oriented grassroots Sonoma County advocacy group.  Adrienne organizes regular public dialogues on racism as part of the Sonoma County Racial Justice Allies and serves on the Steering Committee for Homeless Talk, an initiative for facilitated conversations about homelessness in Santa Rosa this fall.  She’s been honored by the “Russ and Mary Jorgensen Courage of Commitment Award” from the Peace and Justice Center and “The Marijke Byck Spirit of Community Award” from the Taskforce for The Homeless.

  • Charlene Love serves as garden coordinator for the Wellness and Advocacy Center.  A second year horticulture student at Santa Rosa Junior College.  Ms. Love first experienced homelessness in Los Angeles after suffering back to back job losses in Pasadena.  Led to Santa Rosa by divine guidance she has resided in two shelters  in our area, which has given her insight into homelessness and housing issues.  “IF you didn’t have a mental health concern homelessness will give you one”.  She has become an advocate for homeless rights with SRJC and Homeless Action.

  • As the Continuum of Care Coordinator with the Sonoma County Community Development Commission, Michael Gause assists with coordinating programs and policies for ending homelessness in Sonoma County.  Previous to his work in Sonoma County, Michael worked as the Deputy Director of the Mental Health Association of San Francisco and has over fifteen years in nonprofit administration in mental health policy/advocacy and supportive housing programs.  Michael holds a B.A. in English from Duke University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Bennington College.

June 2nd –  From Co-Dependence To Inter-Dependence – Dr. Michael Kozart           

  • Co-dependence is becoming a very popular term among therapeutic and self-help circles. For good reason: co-dependence ravages relationships which could otherwise have been fruitful and profoundly beautiful. Join us as we explore in detail what causes co-dependence, how to stop it, and how to move towards inter-dependence. Inter-dependence is the holy grail of relationships: authentic, fruitful, and capable of sowing and reaping repeated returns upon investment. In other words, inter-dependent relationships grow for a lifetime.

Dr. Michael Kozart is the Medical Director for the Sonoma County Behavioral Health Systems. Previously, he worked at the Brookwood Health Center for Santa Rosa Community Health Centers, through the county’s Community Intervention Program. He served as the Brookwood Medical Director from 2011 to 2015. He has been working for Sonoma County Behavioral Health since 2005. He is very interested in Integrated Care, Social Justice and Healthcare, Cultural Anthropology, and Bicycles.

July 7th – Advocating for Medication Choice – Dr. Gary Bravo                                   

  • In the year 2013, 78,694,222 people used psychiatric medications. Of the 78 million, how many had a choice as to whether or not medication was right for them? One of the principles of the peer recovery movement is self-direction, the freedom to choose and direct the course of one’s recovery path. Psychiatry often prohibits this basic right; join us as we discuss the importance of choosing whether or not medication is right for you. In peer circles, we’ve come to understand that the simple act of making a choice in itself is an important component of the recovery process. Especially when it comes to medication, making an informed choice is extremely important.

  • Gary Bravo, M.D., is a psychiatrist who has worked for Sonoma County Behavioral Health for over 25 years, and served as Medical Director for over 10, stepping down in 2015.  He has mostly worked with people undergoing mental health crises in emergency, hospital, and jail settings.  He has a special interest in the intersection of spirituality and mental health.  In addition, for over ten years he has played harmonica with the Mind Travelers on Wednesdays at the Wellness and Advocacy Center.

August 4th –  Co-Occurring Disorders –  Jenn Peoples 

  • What do you get when you put together a mental health diagnosis, substance abuse, and a history of trauma? The lived reality of about four million people living with co-occurring disorders. Join us as we explore how trauma in some develops into a devastating combination of ongoing mental health afflictions worsened by substance abuse as an unconscious attempt to self-medicate. There is hope for this most dark and dangerous of tunnels: join us as we explore multiple pathways to recovery.

  • Jenn Peoples has been in recovery for twenty years from a co-occurring issue and has provided peer support since 2011 after her sister died from Drug Addiction which drove her to become a Dual Diagnosis Counselor. Jenn’s personal experience with trauma and addiction motivated her to help others who struggle with Co-occurring issues by teaching recovery tools, providing 1:1 counseling, and facilitating Addiction support groups.  Jenn is the Mental Health Dual Diagnosis Consumer Counselor at Interlink and has taught Co-occurring education and Integrated Care to community members, supervises Peer Support Specialists and college interns, tables at recovery events, and has experience teaching at forums on topics that address Addiction recovery.

September 1st – Telling Our Story – Sean Bolan                                                           

We need to talk about our recovery journey in a way which captures the unique aspect, the universal aspect, and deliver it in a way that is aware of the stigma and ignorance most people hold about mental health challenges. People quickly make assumptions, jump to conclusions, have pre-conceived notions. With full awareness of these challenges, how do we talk about our journey in a way which further reinforces our recovery and serves to educate and benefit the listener? Join us to find out.

  • Sean Bolan is the instructor of the Peer Support Specialist Training. He became involved in the peer community and advocacy in 2013. As an intern and staff, he worked at Interlink Self-Help Center. Sean is a student in Sonoma State University’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling program, earning his Master’s Degree

October 6th –  Self and Peer Advocacy – Amy Breckenridge                                       

  • The advocacy process has universal elements that apply to any cause. Two forms of advocacy we will explore are self-advocacy, advocating for our own cause, and peer advocacy, advocating on behalf of one who is unable to advocate for themselves. The universal elements of advocacy are fundamental to any advocacy case. Come learn the ins and outs of this process so you can advocate effectively for yourself or for someone else.
  • Amy Breckenridge has worked for change in the public mental health field for 30 years.  In her current role as Consumer Affairs Coordinator, she works with peers on advocacy issues.  Amy is from New York City and in her free time enjoys reading, listening to music and learning about different worldviews.

November 3rd – Spirituality and Wellness – Melba E. Smith                               

  • Spirituality is an essential ingredient of wholesome, sustainable lifelong wellness. If you want the kind of wellness that is robust and dependable through the most harrowing of difficulties and unforeseen challenges and setbacks, then spirituality is crucial. Spirituality is a tricky and worthwhile subject; it is truly universal and paradoxically deeply personal and individual. So join us as we explore together what spirituality means to us all and to each of us personally.

  • Spirituality enhances our connection between mind, body, and spirit optimizing personal wellness. Melba E. Smith‘s spiritual journey has taken her from hopelessness and desperation to a place of hope, inspiration and peace. Currently, she is the Assistant Program Manager and peer support provider for the Wellness and Advocacy Center. She has spent over three decades counseling, advocating, mentoring men and women in the mental health, judicial, CPS systems and those recovering from substance abuse issues. For over 15 years  she have been a teacher, speaker and counselor on spiritual matters.

December 1st – Interconnectedness of All Things –  Sean Kelson     

  • Every great series needs a wrap up, a bird’s eye view and a pocketbook take away of what all went down. Join us for our finale: we will explore and create a map of how all of the topics we have discussed throughout the year fit together to create a picture of mental health that encompasses the individual, community, society, and globe.


  • Sean Kelson, self-identified trauma survivor, has worked as a peer provider since 2007. Sean is the program manager of Interlink Self-Help Center and supervises the Petaluma Peer Recovery Project.

Sean’s mental health, trauma recovery and alcohol and drug recovery, coupled with his communications education have led him to the behavioral health arena where he tends to focus on trauma recovery, language and system transformation. Sean is co-founder and co-chair of Goodwill – Redwood Empire’s Diversity and Cultural Responsiveness Committee, sits on the Sonoma County Behavioral Health Division’s Quality Improvement Committee and is involved in a number of sub-committees and other projects in the behavioral health arena.

Meaningful Mondays – Movies That Matter 2017 Series

The Wellness & Advocacy Center is proud to present “Meaningful Monday’s – Movies That Matter” 2017 Series, facilitated by Kris Teixeira. We invite you to join us the 2nd Monday of each month. Bring your own popcorn or lunch and settle in with us and watch inspiring stories depicting people experiencing mental health crisis who move through it to hope, recovery and wellness. We will discuss our thoughts, feelings and experiences afterwards. Start time is 11:00 a.m. until finish (no later than 2:00 p.m.) @ 3400 Chanate Road – Santa Rosa. For more information please contact Kris Teixeira @ (707) 565-7803 or kteixeira@gire.org.

**Click here for 2017 movie scheduleMovies That Matter Series_Final

Welcome to Wellness!

We are the staff of the Wellness and Advocacy Center – Welcome! 

Naomi – Art Director

Hi, I’m Naomi! I was lost for a long time in Sonoma County.  My world was only my family. To me this is the smallest and most beautiful city I ever lived in.    It was funny that I ended up in Santa Rosa, because I used to create an installation with images of my stuffed snoopy that has been with me over 40 years.   Many people thought I chose Santa Rosa because of Snoopy.  Coincidentally, there is a street named Naomi Place across the street from the Charles Schultz museum.

The Wellness and Advocacy Center is located where Sonoma County’s nativity still exists.  I appreciate serenity and the wide sky.  Interestingly, I sense my native culture within me here more than in Tokyo.  Ideas that members from the center share with me always go beyond my expectations which makes me humble in my art practice.  Art is a world that keeps contradictions. It doesn’t try to get rid of them.  To me, art encourages one to depart from a prevalent mindset, and makes me focus on creative process.


Kristina – Administrative Assistant

Hello, I’m Kristina! I have been working at the Wellness and Advocacy Center since February 12, 2007. I am very grateful for my job as the Administrative Assistant and Peer Counselor; where, for the first time in my life, and the first job in my life, I am able to use all of the skills that I have learned both in high school and in college. The county, in which I live, Sonoma County, has helped me out so much, and now, I am glad to say that I am giving back to my community what was so generously given to me.  I am so grateful to work with such a wonderful team of Staff, who are such a great source of support for me. I am also grateful for every person who comes into the Wellness and Advocacy Center. They, and the team of Staff that I work with, are what make my life worthwhile and make the Center a wonderful place to work.


Tania – Peer Support Specialist

Hey, my name is Tania Carrillo! I’m a Peer Support Specialist. Something that I hold on to and that inspires me in my work every day is the idea that recovery is ongoing. I am also a student at the Santa Rosa Junior College pursuing a Fashion Design certificate. My hope is that I bring all the knowledge that I have gathered in my life and apply it to my work as a Peer Support Specialist, while holding true to the principle that recovery is possible.