Back in 2008, Mary Hogden was homeless, living on the streets of Berkeley, Calif.
“I got beat up really badly out there,” says Hogden, 62. “It’s not a safe place for women.”
She landed in the hospital and then in a boarding home for adults with mental illness. But her big break came when she started volunteering for a mental health program called the Pool of Consumer Champions, run by Alameda County.
Participants, who offer each other support, also advise the county’s behavioral health division on how to better meet consumers’ needs. The county has adopted some of the group’s recommendations, Hogden says.
“People rallied around me when I was unstable and struggling with my mental health,” Hogden recalls.
She didn’t know at the time that the program was paid for by the state’s Mental Health Services Act (MHSA). But after two years as a volunteer, she became a paid staffer and learned that the program wouldn’t exist without that funding.