In December 2013, the first National Alternatives Conference was held in Austin, Texas. Over 300 people from across Texas were able to attend the conference with financial support from the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health. The spirit of the national conference prompted the foundation to consider hosting a similar event specifically for and by Texans.

After an extensive exploration process with stakeholders, in 2015, the foundation brought together a planning committee consisting of 25 individuals with lived mental health experience. Attention was paid to the committee's diversity in terms of mental health recovery experiences, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, gender and geography to ensure representation from all parts of the great state of Texas.

Priorities identified by the inaugural event’s planning committee shaped the PeerFest goals that continue to guide the event's planning today:

  • Connect Texans with lived mental health experience to a support network of peers.

  • Create an inclusive, welcoming atmosphere for Texans with lived mental health experience that is inclusive of diversity and various world views.

  • Educate Texans with lived mental health experience on the many pathways to wellness.

  • Empower Texans with lived mental health experience to create their best life.