Reverend Chet Watson
Past President, NAMI California
I am writing you on the eve of NAMI’s Mental Illness Awareness Week to thank you for bringing the Crestwood Healing Center to Contra Costa County. Prior to October 2003 the members of NAMI CONTRA COSTA had to drive to other counties to visit their family members who were committed to other mental health facilities. I remember how happy all of us were. That happiness was short lived, because at the first open house meeting for the neighbors, 200 angry people showed up. What followed was the most vicious stigmatizing words that I had ever experienced, even though I had been a NAMI member 15 years. They made it clear that we were not welcome under any circumstances. You in your wisdom and experience did not seem to be as shocked as we were. You helped the Inter-Faith Council of Contra Costa County, NAMI CCC and the Mental Health Consumer Concerns, a consumer run group to organize meetings to educate the citizens of the community. We attended many meetings of the Pleasant Hill City Council as they had the final word to approve the proposal or not. When the City Attorney advised them they would be violating laws if they did not approve things began to move. After the City Council approved the proposal the neighborhood citizens made it clear that we would be watched on a daily basis. The Contra Costa Times ran a story recently with comments from the neighbors and the people interviewed reluctantly admitted that the Crestwood Healing Center was upholding their agreement with the city Oversight Committee that was part of the agreement.
The Crestwood Healing Center was so named because a consumer at one of our meetings suggested it. It was approved by staff and has been that name since. Spirituality is very important to 80% of the consumers responding to a consumer poll and the consumers that were working to help establish the Healing Center wanted Programs that nourished the Spirit and Soul. The fact that you are operating at full capacity of 80 guests, attests to your integrated program.
I live with a son that is “one who lives with mental illness” so I know the skills required of your staff on a daily basis. The NAMIWALKS, for the Mind of America, have been a great success in the Bay Area and have become a major source of income for the affiliates and their programs. When we decided to have a NAMIWALK in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco in May, 2005 I immediately thought of our partners, Crestwood Healing Center, as a Sponsor. You became a Major Sponsor at the $7,500 level and you continued in 2006 at this level. In 2007 you generously upped your Sponsorship to the $10,000 level. Thank you, “you walk your talk”.
I feel that the establishment of Crestwood Healing Center in a residential community, despite the opposition, could be used as a model throughout the state. This endeavor has shown the world that the mentally ill are no different than anyone else except that they have an incurable disease that they can recover from and have a productive life, given the opportunity that your organization provides. I wish you much success in the future as you provide for the last lepers of the world.