After years as a passionate advocate for peer voices in mental health policy, our community has lost Commissioner Tina Wooton. Wooton passed away December 21, 2021, after a long battle with cancer. She worked to pass Prop 63 and then worked to implement it, and was appointed to serve on the Commission in 2010. She served on the Commission until her passing. Wooton’s legacy with the Commission is to involve impacted communities in problem solving, and to ensure peer voices are heard at every level.
Commissioner Wooton left a personal impact on the people she worked with. Below are remembrances from people with whom she worked to advance wellbeing for all.
John Buck, Former CEO of Turning Point Community Programs and MHSA Commissioner and Commissioner Al Rowlett, Current CEO of Turning Point Community Programs
We both remember when Tina applied to work with us at Turning Point Community Programs many years ago, but instead, Tina began her journey in mental health advocacy. Fortunately, our paths continued to cross and we had the pleasure of working with Tina on many projects, including the effort to pass the Mental Health Services Act. Tina enthusiastically embraced the effort from the beginning, even opening her home to host a fundraiser! On that occasion, we were privileged to meet her husband and daughter. Tina was very proud of them and thrilled to be a parent! We were not surprised when her hard work as an advocate ultimately reached the highest pinnacle as a Commissioner on the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission. As a Commissioner, Tina advocated for improving the lives of people struggling with their mental health. In doing so she was tireless, thoughtful, articulate, and selfless. We will remember Tina most for her devotion to her work and family, strong principles, and how she carried herself with dignity and grace. All of our lives have been enriched by Tina.
Commissioner Gladys Mitchell
I began working with Tina many years ago at the Department of Mental Health. Tina was the Prop 63 subject matter expert. We often exchanged stories about our daughters, who are the same age and were making many of the same life decisions, such as college choices, driving and other matters of young people. We both griped about the girls, but also held a shared love and respect for others experience. I will miss Tina and all that we shared about our daughters. Those conversations were very special, especially after her diagnosis. I know for sure, she was a great mom, wife and friend.
Former Commissioner Victor Carrion
When I think of Tina the first thing that comes to mind is her smile. If that smile was not there, it was for one of two reasons: She was deep in thought, thinking creatively on how to solve a problem or she was determined to stress an advocacy point she wanted to make clear.
Her dedication and will were unshakeable. She was a great team-player and partner during our tenure at the OAC. I will miss her deeply.
Commissioner Khatera Aslami-Tamplen
Commissioner Tina Wooton was a true champion for peers and mental health wellness, resiliency and recovery. Before I had the privilege of serving with Tina on the MHSOAC, I remember attending peer conferences and many state mental health advocacy events together. We connected on our lived experience of recovering from mental health challenges and our shared commitment to improve the mental health system through the voices and partnerships of diverse peers and family members. Like many others who knew her, I also immediately felt her warm and welcoming spirit.
A few years later, when the California Department of Mental Health brought together an advisory board to help develop the California Strategic Plan on Reducing Mental Health Stigma and Discrimination, Commissioner Wooten was the Consumer and Family Member Liaison at the California Department of Mental Health and on the team leading the effort and I was on the advisory board. This was the first time we had the opportunity to work more closely together, collaborate and continue advocating for transforming the mental health system. At those Strategic Planning meetings Tina facilitated the peer break out groups and always made sure to connect on a personal level with all of us peers. It was also in those meetings that I felt the power of her advocacy. She eloquently shared how peer support and peer employment, especially in the mental health field was one of the most crucial and rewarding experiences in her life and reminded us often, as she would say, “there is no empowerment without employment.”
Tina was instrumental in ensuring the State Strategic Plan included peer employment as a solution to reduce mental health stigma and discrimination. Commissioner Wooton cared deeply about peer employment and peer advocacy and when I was appointed to the MHSOAC, I was thrilled that I was going to work with and learn from Tina again. Commissioner Wooton encouraged me to speak up and never hesitated to share her wisdom. I remember after SB 803 (Beall) Peer Support Specialist Certification was passed, we began planning the next Client and Family Leadership Committee. One of our invited guests was DHCS and Tina made sure the agenda included questions for DHCS about the certification for family members, parent partners, LGBTQ, and other communities. She did not want to see anyone left out from peer support certification and expressed her feelings without hesitation. She advocated that the transformation of our mental health system to a wellness, resiliency and recovery model was still unfinished and that the leadership and inclusion of peers, family members and culturally and racially diverse communities was critical to help it improve.
Commissioner Wooton is deeply missed and as we mourn her passing, I am reminded of her leadership and contributions. Commissioner Wooton’s intelligence, inclusive advocacy, sense of humor and kindness will always be a model of peer leadership for many now and into the future.