In December 2013, the National Alternatives Conference was held in Austin, Texas for the first time. Over 300 people from all over Texas were able to attend the conference with financial support from the Hogg Foundation through its many grant programs. The energy and inspiration experienced at that event prompted the Hogg Foundation to begin the process of hosting a Texas-based opportunity like Alternatives for Texans with lived mental health experience. As the foundation is a strategic grantmaker, many stakeholders were surveyed, consulted and interviewed (including their National Advisory Council) before the decision to move forward was achieved. Stakeholders resoundingly thought this was a valuable endeavor for the foundation to pursue.
In August 2015, foundation staff brought together a planning committee of 25 persons with lived mental health experience who had expressed interest in planning such an event. Particular attention was paid to the planning committee's diversity in terms of mental health recovery experiences, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, gender, and geography. The committee met in the fall for one and a half days to begin the planning for this extraordinary event. Many initial decisions were made including the focus on newcomers to the recovery scene and movement in Texas. The planning committee continued to meet over the next few months and decided on a name that fit the spirit of the event, PeerFest, to encompass the celebration and educational aspects of the event. The Planning Committee met again in the winter for three days to continue the development of the variety of options for education, connection, and play to be offered. The committee continues to meet in person and more frequently by phone and web meeting to accomplish all of the tasks associated with this project.