By Andy Rowe of Grass Valley
The SPIRIT Peer and Empowerment Center in Grass Valley is a counseling center serving people with mental health issues. These services are provided by trained peers who themselves have experienced similar issues. It has operated with the support of Nevada County Behavioral Health, but largely outside of its structure. The philosophy has been one of self-empowerment of the peers, and those they serve, and has become a model for the state. Many of our residents that have benefited, and continue to benefit, from this self-help walk-in center.
Since the program started, there has been an effort to make the program a permanent fixture in our community in order to assure that these services will continue, and expand to help people make positive changes towards independence and away from dependence. In 2004 the SPIRIT staff participated in a grassroots effort to pass Proposition 63, the Mental Health Services Act. The process involved mental health clients, their families, and service providers in an effort to win passage of the proposition which would give voice to these people in order to make needed changes to the mental health system. In 2007 the organization acquired an option to purchase the SPIRIT Center property. Volunteers went on to raise $50,000 in a local community capital acquisition campaign. The program then applied for Mental Health Services Act Capital Facilities and Technology funding from the local MHSA steering committee for much of the balance of its needed funding for the purchase of the property. There was an impressive showing of community support from both local and state elected officials.