About Us

History of the Consumer Movement

The consumer movement in Maryland began in 1981 when a few consumers in the Baltimore area began meeting in the basement of a church in Catonsville. The group eventually took the name, “On Our Own.” On Our Own is the name of a book written in the late 70′s by Judi Chamberlin, explaining how consumers themselves can create their own network of support groups to provide alternative types of services to the traditional mental health system. One of the main activities of the local On Our Own groups is to provide peer-operated support meetings to the members.

The group officially became incorporated as On Our Own, Inc. 1982. In 1982, the group received funding form the National Institute for Mental Health, Community Support program (NIMH-CSP) via the Maryland Mental Hygiene Administration to sponsor a statewide conference for mental health consumers. This was the first conference of its type in the United States. Over 200 people attended the conference held at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County campus in June of 1982.

In 1983, On Our Own, Inc. received additional federal and state funds to open a consumer operated drop-in center in Baltimore City. This, too, was the first consumer operated drop-in center in the United States, funded in such a manner.

Also in 1983, On Our Own of Montgomery County was formed and in January, 1985, they initiated the second consumer-run drop-in center funded by MHA, in Rockville, MD. Also, in 1985, consumers organized an On Our own group in Howard County.

In 1985, On Our Own, Inc. Baltimore hosted the first national primary consumer conference in the United States (Alternatives ’85) using funding from NIMH-CSP through the Maryland Mental Hygiene Administration (MHA). This was held at the College of Notre Dame in June of 1985. Over 400 consumers from across the United States attended, including representatives from Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

In 1986, On Our Own, Inc. Baltimore formed a statewide project called On Our Own of Maryland (OOOMD), with participation from the other consumer groups, in order to have a more formalized structure for input into the mental health system.

In 1990, On Our Own, Inc. Baltimore via the On Our Own of MD project, helped to facilitate the start of a similar consumer group in Prince George’s County and in Anne Arundel County in 1991.

On Our Own of Maryland, Inc. became an official, separate corporation in October of 1992, after receiving a three-year federal Service System Improvement grant, targeted for establishment of a formal statewide consumer organization. What was a Steering Committee for the On Own of Maryland project became the official Board of Directors. In March of 1993, On Our Own of Maryland opened its own offices in south Baltimore City.

Since 1993, On Our Own of Maryland has provided technical assistance to new consumer groups organizing on the Upper and Lower Eastern Shore, Allegany County, Calvert County, Charles County, St. Mary’s County, Washington County, Howard County, Frederick County, Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Garrett County and Cecil County.

One major activity conducted by On Our Own of Maryland is an annual summer conference for mental health consumers. The conferences provide the opportunity for consumers from across the state to learn what is happening in other parts of the country, meet other consumers, share ideas and listen to a national spokesperson in the disability arena.

On Our Own of Maryland is also engaged in several other activities, including our Anti-Stigma and Advocacy Training Projects. We also provide technical assistance, information and referral, and mental health systems monitoring and evaluation.

On Our Own of Maryland also received a new three year federal grant designed to strengthen Maryland’s Consumer Network. With the assistance of this grant we are able to have a statewide network coordinator whose job is to do outreach to our local consumer groups at the county level and assist them with organizational development.

On Our Own of Maryland formally founded Main Street Housing, Inc. as a subsidiary corporation, to develop affordable decent housing for consumers around Maryland.