Wellness Connections started delivering services on a mobile outreach basis beginning in 2007, In 2015 they established their first center-based program in Nogales.
It is a non-profit behavioral health organization serving Southeastern Arizona since 2001. Wellness Connections is the only “Peer-Run” organization providing recovery support services in this region of the state. Wellness Connections operates five center-based programs under the corporate umbrella of Southeastern AZ Consumer-Run Services, Inc. (SEACRS).
They offer a range of services which include peer support, life skills training, health promotion, employment services, substance recovery groups, and reentry mentoring (helping men and women making the transition from incarceration back to the community).
Wellness Connections is a “Peer Run” organization. Peer Run organizations are a unique type of behavioral health agency that is founded by, managed by, and services are delivered by peers who have “lived experience” with mental health and/or addiction recovery. It also employs the largest peer workforce in the region, and in fact, having this “lived experience” is one of the requirements for working with our agency. Wellness Connections is also a Trauma-Informed organization, recognizing that trauma plays a significant role in people’s lives and the challenges of living faced by those dealing with mental health and/or substance addiction.
It serves adults 18 and over with mental health and/or substance use disorders, and who are seeking to improve their wellness and quality of living through many of the recovery support services provided by our agency. To be eligible for services, individuals must be enrolled in AZ Complete Health or Banner Health Plans, or Vocational Rehabilitation. People who are not covered by these health plans may still get services on a private pay basis.
The organization was founded by a group of peers in recovery (individuals living with mental illness and/or substance use disorders) in 2001. Initial funding and technical support for establishing the programs came through The Community Partnership of Southern AZ, which was the Regional Behavioral Health Authority at that time.
The organization employs 46 employees across Southeastern AZ. At the local Nogales center, there are 8 employees. “ Most of our staff is made up of certified Peer Support Specialists who are specially trained in delivering recovery support. Our Peer Support Specialists are essentially in the role of coaches or mentors in recovery, helping others on their unique recovery journeys,” said Program Manager Rosa Lopez Merino.
The Nogales center presently serves between 60 and 70 individuals who actively participate in their programs. “My role as Program Manager is to oversee and support the day-to-day operations of our Nogales wellness center and team. We are dedicated to providing quality service,” said Rosa Lopez-Merino.
Wellness Connections programs are sustained through health plan contracts, grants, and fundraising efforts. Community members can help support this program through volunteering to help out with various activities such as answering phones, being a guest speaker, leading a group with a craft or other hobby, grant writing, fundraising, helping with transportation. Wellness Connections welcomes donations of self-care or hygiene items, office supplies, art & craft supplies, etc. Those interested in volunteering may fill out a volunteer application on the website www.wellness-connections.org. The website also features a Board Member application for anyone who may be interested in serving on Wellness Connections’ governing board. Across the organization, there are approximately a dozen volunteers.
The Wellness Center in Nogales currently manages a local coalition the Mental Health Criminal Justice Coalition in Santa Cruz County. The coalition was formed to help bring mental health awareness while working with community partners to connect consumers to the resources they need.
Stop by the local Wellness Connections office for more information or to find out how you can volunteer.
Rosa Lopez – Program Manger
Pricilla Ahumada – Program Coordinator
Alfonso Villarreal – PSS- Team lead
Liz Pina – PSS – Driver/Cook
Luis Gaxiola- PSS-Custodian
Jackie Sainz – PSS-Employment specialist
Frances Paredes – PSS – Health and Wellness Coach
Martin Felix – PSS – Outreach/Reentry