PEERS Board Members
Board Member Luther Jessie has more than 20 years of experience working with individuals with Substance Abuse Disorders (SUD), Co-occurring Disorders, and involvement in criminal justice. As the current Division Director of Residential Services and Program Director of Project Pride at the East Bay Community Recovery Project, Luther develops and maintains coordination and relationships with collaboration agencies and other providers. A certified Addiction Specialist from the American Academy of Healthcare Providers, he administers all program operations at EBCPR and oversees the clinical program and evidence-based practices.
Prior to his involvement with EBCRP, Luther served as a caseworker at Humanistic Alternatives to Addiction Research & Treatment and a counselor at 14th Street Clinic and Medical Group.
In addition, Luther is the Community Services Committee Chair of Oakland Rotary #3, a Paul Harris Fellow, and an Oakland Rotary Endowment Patron.
Paulette Malak comes to the PEERS Board of Directors from American Medical Forensic Specialists, where she is Medical Staff Coordinator and Office Manager. Much of her work consists of recruiting medical expert witnesses for a wide range of clients across the country. She brings to her work a voice of advocacy for those struggling with mental health challenges, her own experience as a consumer, and fluency in Arabic.
As a consumer, she feels fortunate enough to have parents that have come to understand what it means to take care of both the mind and the body, and that there is a connection between mental wellness and overall health. For some time, she tried to go about her life without addressing the issues that were slowly destroying her health as well as her social and professional lives. Finally, she found the strength to turn to her brother for help. Through the support of her brother and her friends she was empowered to advocate for herself and ask her parents to support her in her journey towards wellness and recovery. She feels that she would not be where she is today without the support of her family and friends, as well as the wellness planning she has done in partnership with her psychiatrist in order to secure a great future.
Her connection to PEERS grows from an appreciation of the organization’s community outreach and commitment to being a consumer run organization. She is invested in combating the stigma regarding mental health difficulties, and feels that because of organizations such as PEERS, there is a clear voice of encouragement to seek support, wellness planning, and recovery, even when it is not culturally acceptable to do so. She is deeply moved by the stories of people struggling with mental health difficulties, and the positive impact that the work of PEERS continues to do within the Alameda County community.
Possessing both personal and professional backgrounds in behavioral health, Quintara Nielson brings a diverse array of experiences to the PEERS board. Involved with PEERS since 2008, she looks forward to helping shape the direction of PEERS while also serving as its representative and interacting with the public.
“The more I participate with the members of PEERS, the more I dream about how PEERS can blossom,” Nielson said. “The individuals that work for PEERS are unique and genuine in the services they provide.”
Nielson especially looks forward to involving the youth population in the wellness movement. A consumer and a veteran of both public and private sectors, Nielson has wide-reaching experience with nonprofit organizations, city health departments, juvenile justice arenas, public schools, mentorship programs, and in adult incarceration and community programming. She also participates in Celebrate Recovery, an international Christ-based recovery program, and attributes her success story to her faith. After acquiring her master’s degree, Nielson will be preparing for her doctorate in holistic health and environmental medicine.
Board Member Chad Saunders is excited to support PEERS' mission of ending mental health stigma and giving back to the community. A family member, Chad has a loved one who has been hospitalized multiple times with depression and has helped her navigate the system. An attorney with Hoffman & Lazear, he is passionate about giving advice and counsel to people with mental illness and representing employees who have been treated unlawfully by their employers, particularly employees who have suffered discrimination, retaliation, harassment, wrongful termination, or unpaid wages.
Prior to his work at Hoffman and Lazear, Mr. Saunders worked as a law clerk at Legal Services for Children, Protection and Advocacy (now Disability Rights California), and as a Certified Legal Intern at the New College of California Housing Advocacy Clinic.
A member of the PEERS Board since February 2010, Marti Winterhalter has been professionally involved with the mental health field since 1980. As the current Director of Rehab for Villa Fairmont Mental Health Center, she manages a team consisting of therapists, activity leaders, peer counselors, and therapy interns. In addition, she is also part of the team that oversees the daily operations of a 96-bed sub-acute locked psychiatric facility.
A recreation therapist for more than 30 years, Marti has worked in the fields of mental health, geriatrics, physical disability, and traumatic brain injury in both community and in-patient settings for profit and non-profit organizations. She is a CBMA, has completed graduate work in recreation therapy, education psychology, and multimedia, and possesses a MBA in Healthcare Management.
Introduced to the recovery model in 2000, Marti enjoys being on the Board of an organization that mirrors her own work in facilitating an environment for people to overcome mental health challenges and ultimately fulfill their hopes and dreams. Possessing personal experience with depression and suicidal tendencies earlier in life, Marti also has experience as a family member of someone who self-medicated with alcohol.
When she’s not working, Marti enjoys singing, playing the keyboard, reading, attending live theatre, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.
Melany Spielman has been involved with PEERS in some way or another since its founding in 2001. A survivor of childhood abuse and PTSD, she is passionate about contributing to the stigma reduction work that is integral to PEERS’ mission.
Melany currently serves as the Chair of the Department of Hospitality, Recreation and Tourism at California State University, East Bay. Melany has also worked as a recreation therapist for more than 25 years. She earned her PhD from the University of Oregon.