800.241.4949 Crisis Info


Office for Peer-Participant Advocacy(OPA!)

Text Size

Donna Coulter Photo.jpgDonna M. Coulter, PhD, is the Director of the Office for Peer-Participant Advocacy (OPA!). At her core, Donna believes that those affected by decisions, can and should be involved in related deliberations that concern them. As the unit director, she oversees peer professionals and the Constituents’ Voice (again so named by the members) which is advisory to the president and CEO. A natural teacher, she hangs her hope on people doing better when they know better. To this end, programming and training offered through the unit strives to meet peers and members “where they are” so that they may successfully achieve personal goals to live, learn, work, and recreate with power. 

With inspiration from various community groups, she has conceptualized and advance at least two anti-stigma campaigns: “I Come with this Head” to convey that individual’s identity goes beyond their heads and “Peers are Colleagues” to promote peers as a new segment of the community mental health workforce, and a poster, “Recovery is Everybody’s Business” which offers a concentric view of the levels of responsibility (I.e., person, provider, leadership) for recovery along the ten components of Recovery as defined by the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration. Donna also worked with multiple community members and providers to create the internationally award winning video since required for all Detroit Wayne staff, Recovery Enhancing Environment: redefining health, home, purpose, and community which highlighted the story of Sheldon Hill, a recovering person with a substance, mental illness, and traumatic pass.  
Donna is passionate about houses and the care of people’s hearts. When talking to her, avoid the topics of love and forgiveness as she gets uncharacteristically “preachy”. After earning her PhD in Educational Evaluation and Research with a speciality in Qualitative Research from Wayne State University in 2013, she was invited to teach a fundamental research course which she found very rewarding. She is married and combined they have four adult children and eight really cool grandchildren with whom she wishes to travel more often.


About the Office of Peer-Participant Advocacy

Affectionately known as “OPA!”, unit staff serve each day to build the peer workforce and engage members in deliberations and decision-making. Named by and for those who receive services, OPA!  was started in 2013 by President and CEO Tom Watkins to elevate the voices of persons served. Since, the department has worked with its MCPN and provider partners to continuously increased the number of people employed as peers in the community mental health workforce, and started the Constituents’ Voice, a “consumer” advisory group. Sharply focus on greater community inclusion as a key outcome of its work, the OPA! team host several events during the year to promote the paradigm shift.

Constituents’ Voice

The Constituents’ Voice (also known as the “CV”) represents a merger of two former “consumer” groups: the Consumer Family Advocate Council (CFAC) and the Community Planning Council (CPC), and a sprinkling of new people. The body is charged with advising the President and CEO with respect to the design, delivery, implementation, and evaluation of mental health programs and services in Wayne County, and with specific regard to policy development that facilitates greater community inclusion, a system priority. Projects include an annual community inclusion conference and the George Gaines Robert Sanders Fund for Community Inclusion which makes unrestricted dollars available to service recipients to increase their presence and participation in the mainstream community. The body also sponsors various advocacy and community efforts to advance social inclusion such as the Walk-A-Mile in My Shoes and voter registration drives. The CV meets the third Friday of each month at various community settings.
DWMHA Sponsored and Co-sponsored Events

  • DWMHA Constituents’ Voice: Meetings are held the 3rd Friday of each month
  • Tri-County Peers Connect Quarterly Meetings: These quarterly gathering are open to all peers across Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties, and involve professional development on key topics of interest and networking to their field. (Meeting dates and locations vary)
  • Peer Mentor Professional Development: Each month certified and aspiring peer mentors meet to hone their skills as service providers. (Meeting dates and locations vary)
  • Behavioral Health Workforce Development Program Friday Intensives - Monthly training series on current topics for the “with it” peer. (Training sessions are offered on the 2nd Friday of each month)
  • EVOLVE!: A new training series for persons served to gain knowledge and power to exercise choices and decisions about their lives. (Events are held quarterly on the 5th Wednesday)
  • MCPN & Provider Consumer Advisory Meetings: Dates (coming soon)



Frequently Asked Questions

What is a peer?

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services defines Peers as “individuals who have a unique background and skill level from their experience in utilizing services and supports to achieve their personal goals of community membership, independence and productivity. Peers have a special ability to gain trust and respect of other beneficiaries based on shared experience and perspectives with disabilities, and with planning and negotiating human services systems health.”

In Michigan, there are five categories of peers who work within the community mental  system. They are:

  • Peer Support Specialist: CMH professionals with lived experience with mental illness who provide community mental health services to the same. (For more information contact: Steve Kuhlman at
  • Peer Mentors: CMH professionals with an intellectual or developmental disability trained to provide services to their peers with the same conditions. (For more information contact: Robert Spruce at
  • Recovery Coaches: CMH professionals who live a life of recovery from substances and provide prevention, support, and treatment services to others like themselves. (For more information contact: Judy Davis at
  • Parent Support Partners (For more information  contact: Kimberly Hunt at
  • Youth Peer Support Specialist and Youth Advocates (For more information contact: Jasmine Boatwright at


What is a peer run drop-in center or a drop-in center?

Drop-In Centers are non-clinical settings that are 100% run by and for people with mental illness and/or co-occurring disorders. Drop-In Centers are an evidence-based practice and a billable Medicaid service that help reach uninsured and underserved persons. They provide opportunities for people to learn about recovery.



Video Corner

Mini Grant video.JPG

Peer Mentor video.JPG

Dreams Come True

This DWMHA Mini Grant application is now open!

The Dreams Come True Fund (formerly the George Gaines and Roberta Sanders Fund for Community Inclusion) is a project of the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority (DWMHA) Constituents' Voice consumer advisory group. It was created to support Detroit-Wayne consumers/members achieve a personal goal toward community inclusion i.e., the personal sense of valued participation and interaction in everyday life. Awards are up to $500 per individual. To qualify, applicants must live in Wayne County, MI and be active recipients of community mental health services. 



Need to find out more about Peer-Participant Advocacy?

Please Contact:

Donna M. Coulter, PhD - Director
313.344.9099 ext. 3109
Robert Spruce, BA - Peer Mentor Coordinator
(Meeting Coordinator)
313.344.9099 ext. 3235

Lady showing thumbsup

Upcoming Events

Note: Times and/or dates may change.
Please call ahead to verify
Dreams Come True Variety Show Fundraiser
Saturday, June 23rd
 Featuring Special Guests
Variety Show Flyer 2018.jpg
[Download Flyer & Donation Form]
Peer Training Series 2018
Peer Training Series_2018_Page_1.jpg
In collaborations with the Substance Use and Mental Health Services Administration, DWMHA is offering a 5-part training series about the changing role a peer can play in helping people reassess their lifestyles and challenges and direct them toward a path of Recovery.
The first training will be a two-part workshop that will focus on the roles of peers and case managers in the workplace and coming to terms with the differences in responsibilities. It will be held at DWMHA on Friday, May 25, and feature special speaker Andre Johnson, President and CEO for Detroit Recovery Project. This workshop will be divided into two parts:
  • The 1st two hours will be for peer supervisors  from 8:15am to 10:15am
  • The 2nd half will be for peers and the case managers they work with from 10:30am to 12:30pm.
Use this link to register:
For questions, please contact Monique Mitchell at (313)344-9099 ext. 3281 or email to
Deaf Matters 4th Annual Conference June 14, 2018 - 9:30am - 5pm
RSVP by June 7, 2018 to



  • This Conference is free.
  • You can earn Continuing Education Credits