In December of 2020, Peer Voices of Orange County (PVOC) was established by Co-Founders Johnice Williams and Orlando Vera. They recognized a need for empowering peers, defined as individuals who live with mental health conditions. The opinions, beliefs, feedback, and ideas of peers were not being heard in our community and opportunities to offer input to change the behavioral health care system were rare. This peer-led movement was formed to provide peers opportunities to express their opinions, beliefs, feedback, and ideas to enact positive change. Because community engagement is a priority of ours, we strive to empower peers to express their opinions, needs, and ideas to enact positive change. To gain the perspectives of peers, we are organizing community engagement meetings. These meetings are a forum for peers, family members of peers, and mental health professionals to express their feedback, opinions, needs and ideas about the behavioral health system and the care peers are receiving. We believe in the power of work, as evidenced by our “Wellness at Work” Employment Support Group. Lead by trained Facilitators, our group offers support and encouragement to peers who are working and peers who are seeking employment. New coping skills to manage the challenges of working and unemployment are explored. A focus on learning new, helpful workplace accommodations is also emphasized. Our goal is to support employed peers and empower unemployed peers to obtain and maintain employment.
“Emotions Anonymous,” “Peer Empowerment” and the “Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance-Orange County” are three additional groups that we facilitate in the community. These groups are free to participants and focus on developing effective coping skills for our emotions and building resilience, hope, wisdom, and wellness within ourselves.
We also have a program called “Community Voices.” This is a weekly Zoom Meeting in which a representative from a local healthcare or peer organization delivers a presentation describing the services they offer. A question and answer session with the representative follows. We encourage open dialogue and interaction.
In addition, participants are asked to check in and share how they are feeling and how things are going in their lives. Peers also share their challenges as well as their successes. Encouragement, wisdom, and support are shared by our staff and fellow peers.
Some of our past presenters include Brooke Weitzman of the Elder Law and Disability Rights Center, Community Legal Aid of Southern California, and the Norooz Clinic.
Peer Voices of Orange County, Inc. is operating through a CA nonprofit public benefit corporation using fiscal sponsorship with Players Philanthropy Fund (Federal Tax ID: 27-6601178), a Maryland charitable trust with federal tax-exempt status as a public charity under Section 501 (c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Contributions to Peer Voices of Orange County are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law.