The Center for Healthy Independence (CHI) was launched in 2009 as a new program of the Mental Health department at Asian Americans for Community Involvement (AACI). The concept of the program was based on the Wellness and Recovery model of mental health. The idea is that each one of us has internal and external resources for coping with stressors. Mary Ellen Copeland, Ph.D., who authored the Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP), introduced the idea that individuals can achieve long-term recovery and stability by identifying and using these resources in the context of coping with and taking control of mental illness. CHI strives to incorporate these concepts and adapt them to serve AACI’s culturally diverse consumer population. Funding is provided by Santa Clara County, through MHSA funds (Prop 63). These funds are based on a tax collected from tax-payers who net over $1 million in the year.

The CHI program is empowering our clients to actively collaborate in their treatment and move towards recovery and community integration. The program offers peer- and staff-facilitated groups to address the different wellness needs of the clients from skill-based groups such as crocheting, knitting, and jewelry-making to daily living skills groups such as cooking class and hygiene improvement class, to wellness groups such as nutrition group, tai chi, meditation, and exercise group. Groups are conducted in English as well as the language of the participants. Many of the activities are adapted to reflect the collectivistic and interdependent nature of many of the cultures that AACI serve. The goal of the CHI program is to emphasize the clients’ strengths and to help each consumer become a significant member of their community.

Since the launch of CHI, the program has expanded from 3-4 activities per month to approximately 3-4 activities per week. A good portion of these activities are facilitated by consumers or family members. Client successes include reentering the workforce, returning to college, seeking lower levels of care, and becoming mentors to others new to the CHI program. The wellness groups offered through the CHI program have also been natural support systems to the attendees. It is the hope that many, if not all of our clients may participate and benefit from the activities and groups offered through CHI.