Staff

Vanetta Johnson

Executive Director

As Executive Director, Vanetta is responsible for providing organizational oversight and leadership.  Working closely with the Board of Directors, staff, and the community, she is also responsible for sustaining mental health and wellness programs that align with our mission of hope and recovery. Additionally, she is committed to the overall growth and success of the mental health consumer run and led movement. 

Prior to her role as Executive Director, Vanetta served as the Programs Director at PEERS where she provided program oversight and led workforce development efforts. Vanetta also served on the leadership team at WestCoast Children’s Clinic where she managed efforts for the Youth Advocate Program: a workforce development program for systems-involved Transition Age Youth. Outside of her work with mental health focused non-profit organizations, she has worked in various sectors providing her with a diverse skill set.

With over 17 years of professional experience, Vanetta brings a background that includes executive leadership, organizational development, coaching, workforce development, and program management. Over the last several years, she has worked to improve outcomes for youth and adults within the foster care and behavioral healthcare systems. She is committed to continuing this work in her new role at PEERS.
 
Vanetta identifies with our mental health community through her personal lived experience as a former foster youth in which she encountered various forms of trauma and mental health challenges. Vanetta is deeply invested in her recovery and being an example to others that recovery is possible. She leans on her faith, counseling/mentoring, and her support system to continue her wellness journey.

Ashlee Jemmott

Program Coordinator

Ashlee Jemmott has been working in the mental health field, providing resources, assistance, and guidance to youth and young adults in the juvenile justice and foster care systems, including young mothers and fathers. She supported the creation and opening of the health center at McClymonds High School in collaboration with Children’s Hospital Oakland. While earning a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology at San Jose State University (SJSU), Ashlee founded the campus organization Connect, Motivate, Educate Scholars to advocate for former and current foster youth attending SJSU. This initiative supplied access to school funding, tutoring services, mental health services, and housing. She has served in the community as a career and education coordinator, academic adviser, and most recently as a founding member of a charter school in Oakland. As a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. as well as the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Ashlee is committed to exuding excellence and setting positive examples in her community. 

Basilia Padilla

Program Coordinator

Basilia Padilla is a program coordinator with PEERS. In her role she is making efforts to reduce stigma and discrimination within the Latino/a communities. As a Program Coordinator, Basilia is responsible for supporting the community in developing new skills, facilitating trainings and meetings, and coordinating outreach events designed to promote wellness, stigma reduction, and reduce discrimination.  She believes that by creating cultural inclusiveness and fully understanding the culture and community that you’re serving we can effectively and successfully promote wellness.  

Basilia is a certified facilitator for the Hearing Voices Network, graduate of eCPR, and 2015 was voted most likely to create a women’s multilingual program.  Before joining PEERS she worked with the “Special Messages” innovation grant project using the curriculum developed by Tim Dreby.  She was an Outreach/Peer Specialist and worked with individuals experiencing psychosis; Basilia worked with participants to help reduce their isolation by providing peer support.  She also facilitated presentations geared toward providers to assist with developing a common language that honors the participants.

In her work with Special Messages she developed the slogan for the program “Sharing our experiences on Special message at a time.”   Because she strongly believes that by sharing our experiences we can reduce the stigma that comes with a diagnosis. Basilia has struggled with her own diagnosis of depression, PTSD, and message receiving.  She is Mexican American and in her journey to recovery it was her Mexican background that helped her achieve wellness. With the help of her culture, religion, and support of her grandmother and grandfather she was able to achieve wellness.

Basilia was born and raised in the Bay Area and attends Cal State East Bay working towards her Bachelors of Arts in Psychology. She loves live music, concerts, movies, and spending time with her daughter and fiancé. 

Bre Williams

Program Coordinator II

Brianna Williams

Bre Williams is a Program Coordinator II and Advanced Level WRAP Facilitator at PEERS.  Bre started working in the mental health field as a Transition Age Youth (TAY) advocate for after being diagnosed as a teen. From 2010 – 2012, she established herself as TAY Leader in the community and became staff of TAY committee of Pool Of Consumer Champions (POCC), became employed by PEERS, and co-created the Transition Age Youth Initiative, now known as the Transition Age Youth (TAY) Program.  She is also the creator of the Ebony Youth Project (now known as Downtown TAY) and the Sankofa Sessions under the Health and Human Resource Education Center (HHREC).

In her current role, Bre extends her passion for wellness and resiliency to not only TAY, but adult and older adult populations as well by providing WRAP orientations, groups, and trainings. She is also an active member of the POCC’s African American Empowerment Committee and is committed to supporting the growth of culturally responsive services in Alameda County.

Bre is very passionate about her work and understands that life challenges happen to everyone, but fully believes that with hope, determination, and support, everyone can recover and live the life they desire!

Gilbert Pizano

Program Coordinator

Gilbert is a Program Coordinator at PEERS. In his role, Gilbert is lead staff for the Lift Every Voice and Speak speakers' bureau. He is also responsible for facilitating Wellness Recovery Action Plans (WRAP) groups, Reflections and Expressions Workshops, and participating in the Psych Med Videos project.

Gilbert has a background in youth advocacy, facilitating trainings and focus groups, as well as lived experience as a Transition Age Youth (TAY) and the Foster Care System. Before joining PEERS, Gilbert worked for an organization that provided direct and indirect advocacy to foster and probation youth throughout Alameda County’s Department of Children and Family Services. Gilbert’s experiences have motivated him to further his career path within this field of work and to make changes every step of the way.

He also loves skateboarding, cutting hair, photography, but most importantly enjoys the company of his loved ones.

Heather Riemer

Program Coordinator

Heather leads the Tobacco Harm Reduction program and facilitates tobacco presentations, WRAP groups, trainings and orientations, and eCPR workshops. 

Heather has struggled with her own personal issues stemming from the trauma in her early life. Depression and anxiety have plagued her since she was young, leading to homelessness and hospitals. Heather wants to help change the mental health care system so others will know that recovery is real.

Before making a transition to Program Coordinator she worked with the “Special Messages” innovation grant project, a program of PEERS. She was an Outreach/Peer Specialist and worked with individuals experiencing psychosis to let them know that they not alone. She also facilitated special messages presentations geared toward providers to assist with developing a common language that honors the strengths of people with mental health experiences.

Heather is originally from Hawaii, but now calls the Bay Area home. Her greatest joy is her 3 children, who are now young adults, making their way in the world. She enjoys being a part of PEERS, and she hopes to make a positive difference in the health and well-being of people who identify as mental health consumers. 

Heather is a graduate of Hawaii Community College and BestNow! She is also certified in WRAP, eCPR, Tobacco Cessation, First Aid, Hearing Voices, CERT, and Youth Mental Health First Aid. She is always striving to make the world more aware and accepting of those living with mental health experiences.

Kenneth Kozi Arrington

Program Outreach Coordinator

Kenneth Kozi Arrington is the Programs Outreach Coordinator for PEERS. In this role, Kozi reaches out to various Alameda County communities, organizations, agencies and learning institutions that serve and/or educate people with mental health challenges.  He also plays a lead role with Emotional CPR and facilitates Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) Groups as well as Tobacco Cessation/Harm Reduction Workshops. Mr. Arrington is the co-founder and lead chairperson for the Alameda County, Pool of Consumer Champions, (POCC), Sexuality & Gender Alliance Committee (SAGA).

As the Programs Outreach Coordinator, Kozi uses his community and public relations skills to promote wellness and awareness, recruit volunteers, and organize events that benefit both the public and people with lived mental health experiences. He also introduces the concept and educates members of the community on the importance of mental health awareness.

What Kozi likes most about being involved with PEERS is his ability to meet with, connect with, listen to, and learn from others. He enjoys facilitating self-empowerment with others as he proactively engages in his own recovery.

In January of 2013, he served as an intern from the BestNow! Peer Specialist Training Program and worked on the PEERS video series Stories of Recovery. Following his internship and before transitioning to his current role, he served as the face of the place, the Front Desk Receptionist.

A graduate and now apprentice of Emotional CPR, Kozi has also served as a Mentor on Discharge through the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and is a certified "Peer 2 Peer" Group Facilitator and an "In Our Own Voice" (IOOV) Group Facilitator through NAMI. Kozi was one of the participants in the NAMI, IOOV Cultural Adaptation Video Series as a representative of the African American LGBT family of mental health consumers.

Kenneth worked and volunteered for many years for the Alameda County Public Health Department’s Office of AIDS as a Community Activist, Peer Advocate, Peer Educator and Linkage Coordinator for People Living With HIV/AIDS, PLWHA. He served as the co-chair of the Alameda County, Collaborative Community Planning Council In 2005.

Kenneth is also a professional vocalist, actor, director for stage and television, writer, and spoken word artist. Check him out on YouTube.

Lyndsey Ellis

Program Coordinator

Lyndsey Ellis is a Program Coordinator with PEERS. She’s responsible for outreach, blog writing, facilitating Reflections and Expressions workshops, Spirituality, co-organizing Day of Prayer, and various other PEERS activities.

As a resident of the Bay Area for nearly 10 years, Ellis has engaged in volunteer outreach, facilitated writing workshops for, and worked with domestic violence survivors in the past. She has a background in creative writing with some experience in copywriting, freelance journalism, and blogging with work appearing in 7x7, For Harriet, Examiner.com, and Heart & Soul Magazine among other places. In her spare time, she enjoys Afro Samba dancing and traveling to spend time with family in her hometown, St. Louis MO. 

Lynn Rivas, PhD

Associate Director

As the Associate Director, Lynn supports the Executive Director and Finance Director with organization sustainability; manages the stigma and discrimination reduction campaign and internal operations; and collaborates with programs.

Lynn’s background includes organizing around workforce issues, disability advocacy, training and workforce development, program development and evaluation, and all phases of grants applications and management.

Lynn has lived experience with a mental health diagnosis and she works every day on her recovery.  PEERS offered an opportunity for authenticity that is unique and which Lynn deeply values. She is committed to the mission of PEERS and is looking forward to working towards the goal of reducing stigma and discrimination in the broader community.

Lynn and Teresa, Lynn’s spouse of 27 years, spend most of their free time with their dog Rascal.

Nancy Lee

Finance Director

As Finance Director, Nancy Lee controls the purse strings for PEERS. Responsible for establishing and maintaining accounting systems, safeguarding PEERS assets, preparing financial reports, and complying with audit requirements, Nancy has been involved with PEERS since 2002 when she helped create the program budget with the first BHCS contract.

Nancy is proud to be associated with PEERS and share the commitment to advocating wellness recovery and social inclusion. A graduate of the 3-Day WRAP workshop, Nancy believes that there is hope and help to feel and get well.

Nancy is married and has two children.

Patrick Glass

Communications Coordinator

Patrick Glass is Communications Coordinator at PEERS. In his current role, Patrick helps orchestrate outreach efforts, web content, and video production needs. He primarily contributes to the Everyone Counts Campaign, among other projects. A longtime advocate for wellbeing and lifestyle balance, in the past, Patrick worked in publishing, academic research, and non-profits. Although he is an Oakland native, Patrick attended Wesleyan University in Connecticut, graduating with a BA in English. He is very excited to be living in the Bay Area again.

Outside of work, you can find Patrick hiking, playing soccer, reading, or hanging out with friends and family. His other interests include postmodern novels, detective movies, and board games of all kinds. 

Portia Lee

Reception Area Program Assistant

As a Receptionist Area Program Assistant, Portia Lee is responsible for the reception area and other duties as needed by her supervisor, other program coordinators, or the Executive Director. Portia was introduced to PEERS by her late husband. She started coming to the Toastmasters and Lift Every Voice groups and soon realized this is the type of environment she can thrive in, grow, and move forward to mental wellness. The Toastmasters group helps Portia to become a better speaker. Portia is the mother of 4 and the grandmother of 2.

Toshie Narita

Finance Coordinator

Toshie Narita

In her role, Finance Coordinator Toshie Narita helps the finance department with bookkeeping, filing, and other activities that keep the office running smoothly and efficiently. Before coming to PEERS, Toshie served as a bookkeeper, front clerk, concierge, and financial manager at a hotel in her hometown. She has also been a tutor for children.

Toshie is originally from Japan and came to the United States in 1999 to study film. Shortly after she arrived, Toshie found she wasn't as young as other students and didn’t have friends for a period of time. In addition, she found herself lonely shortly after getting married and as a result, sought counseling. In the process, she learned that she could ask for help when needed, which helped her feel better being in a country in which she did not grow up. Toshie believes that experience was an "amazing realization" as to how important mental health is and the effectiveness of related programs.

Toshie is excited to be a part of an organization that has been doing "great things in the mental health field and is increasingly recognized by society." In her spare time, Toshie loves photography, camping, snowboarding, going for a drive, hiking, reading, and watching suspense movies and TV shows.

Veronica Liu

Program/Office Coordinator

Veronica Liu is the Program/Office Coordinator at PEERS.  She is lead for administrative tasks and internal operations, managing day-to-day functions, providing support to the Executive team, PEERS Board, HR, and other programs.    
 
For the past 17 years, she has worked within diverse communities as an educator within the academic field serving predominantly low-income Spanish speaking youth from immigrant families as well as students in special education.  In addition, she has volunteered at her local Second Harvest Food Bank and continues to do so providing translation work and helping to distribute food to families and elders. Veronica is always inspired by how resilient communities are in face of struggle and adversity and the selflessness of those who serve others. She is excited to bring her bilingual language skills to PEERS to serve her community. She holds a degree in Sociology from San Jose State University, and in her spare time, enjoys reading, movies, and music.

Vilma Sakalauskaite

Program Assistant

Vilma was an intern at PEERS through BestNow! peer specialist training program and is now employed as a Program Assistant. Vilma assists Program Coordinators with various tasks, facilitates Tobacco presentations and assists with WRAP.

Originally from Lithuania, Vilma has a lived immigration experience. She takes interest in mental health, wellness, and addiction recovery, and is committed to self-determination and healing. Vilma is familiar with recovery services and supports various programs at PEERS. She likes exercising, dancing and nature hikes. Her intention is to be as present as possible and to have fun.

Zakiya Johnson

Program Assistant

Zakiya Johnson started as an intern and quickly found that her values aligned with PEERS. Zakiya is now a Program Assistant, currently responsible for supporting programs with evaluations, and provides administrative support to the Wellness and Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) team and Lift Every Voice and Speak (LEVS) team. Zakiya also supports program related events such as the We Move for Health Walk (formerly 10x10 Walk).

Zakiya has also been introduced to the Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP®).  She has started to use the tools to support herself through school and family life. She is excited to be a part of educating and reducing the stigma about mental health in her community and has joined the Pool Of Consumer Champions (POCC) a program of Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services with a membership of 900+. She is excited to continue to grow as an advocate in this field and continue to network with peers across Alameda County.

Zakiya likes to spend time with her children, family, and friends. Zakiya is a Bay Area native and loves interacting with people and has a strong interest in helping youth who have experienced trauma. Zakiya attends San Francisco State University and is working toward her Bachelors of Arts in Liberal Studies/Social Work.