Date:     May 23, 2016

Amistad, Inc. Hires New Executive Director

Portland, ME – Brian Townsend, MS, LCPC, has been named executive director of Amistad, Inc., a Portland-based nonprofit serving adults with serious mental illness and other life challenges. He succeeds Peter Driscoll, who has served as executive director since 1996.

Amistad is a non-profit corporation started in 1982 that provides progressive and consumer-directed mental health services based on a belief in the potential of individuals with serious life challenges to live full, rich and productive lives.  The mission of Amistad is to foster a community for people who are facing mental health and other life challenges, develop peer services, and advocate for changes to the mental health system which are based on a belief in recovery and respect for a meaningful consumer voice.

“We conducted a thoughtful, multi-month search which included both the Amistad agency board of directors and the peer advisory board, said Melissa Skahan, Amistad agency board President. “Brian’s strengths and experience will continue to carry on our mission of advocating for individuals living with mental illness, poverty and addiction, while fostering the agency’s continued growth in the community.”

Townsend holds a MS in Counseling from the Program in Community Mental Health, and is an experienced speaker on mental health issues. Most recently, he served as the Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) Team Leader at Catholic Charities, providing oversight and coordination of behavioral health care support professionals working with homeless individuals and others with significant barriers.   He previously worked at Preble Street Resource Center in Portland as their Director of Social Work and as a member of their Clinical Intervention Program, working to address issues of homelessness, poverty and mental illness.

Townsend was born in Boothbay Harbor, one of six children, and his father was a fisherman. Townsend states, “My parents raised my five siblings and me with both their example and their instruction about the value of living lives of service to others.”

“This is a tremendously exciting time to join Amistad in its work. Amistad has been a true pioneer of peer services, a field that is currently expanding and diversifying,” said Townsend. “This validates the voices of consumers who for years have had the courage and wisdom to suggest that those with lived experience of mental illness and addiction know best how to help others struggling toward their own recovery.”

Peter Driscoll, Amistad’s retiring executive director, joined the agency 20 years ago.  During his tenure he pioneered many projects that raised the profile and accessibility of peer support services in Maine, including nightly staffing of peer support workers at Maine Medical Center’s Emergency Department. Driscoll also brought Amistad’s peer support professionals to the Riverview Psychiatric Recovery Center in Augusta, where they work as part of the hospital’s treatment team.

Most recently, Driscoll helped lead The Cemetery Project which spent a decade researching patients who died at the former Augusta Mental Health Institute, most of whom were buried in unmarked graves in and around Augusta.  A monument across from the former AMHI building was established to memorialize and honor the nearly 12 thousand individuals identified during their research.

In 2015, Peter was the recipient of the Johnson & Korda Innovation Award awarded by Shalom House, Inc. for his role in developing creative and effective programs for people with mental illness.

“I am leaving [Amistad] a rich man, rich from the many things you all have taught me,” said Driscoll. “You have taught me about the amazing power of recovery, and that everybody is capable of living a rich and productive life. You have taught me how important it is to be part of an accepting community, and you have taught me the importance of having genuine, meaningful relationships with each other. From the bottom of my heart I want to thank you for this wonderful opportunity.”

“Over the last two decades Peter has been instrumental in creating a foundation at Amistad where all individuals are accepted and treated with dignity. He has advocated for changes in the mental health system while developing peer service programs, impacting thousands of lives,” said Amistad agency board Vice President, Russell Thayer.  “Peter has consistently demonstrated a fundamental belief that everyone can live a meaningful life, while advocating for the importance of the consumer voice that must always be heard.”

For his part, Townsend looks forward to carry on Amistad’s mission. “I see Amistad as being uniquely situated to confront and solve the complex challenges our community faces today,” Townsend said. “Amistad sees the need for compassion, but also for personal responsibility. We believe that solutions to issues like homelessness, addiction, poverty and mental illness are found in both effective state and local policy and through the individual commitments we make to better ourselves and those around us. I am excited to join Amistad as a servant leader and will be working diligently alongside Amistad’s members to foster our community, develop peer services, advocate for positive social change and increase the influence of the voice of consumers.”

For more information, call 207-773-1956 or visit



Amistad, Inc. is a Portland, ME-based 501 (c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to providing progressive and consumer directed services for adults living with serious mental illness and other life challenges. Amistad’s programs include the Peer Support and Recovery Center on State Street in Portland, Peer Support in the Emergency Room at Maine Medical Center and Mercy Hospital in Portland, The Peer Coaching Initiative, a community-based program working with individuals who are overly reliant on emergency survives in Portland, and as part of the treatment team at Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta. All of Amistad’s services are developed and delivered by peers – individuals with their own experience of mental illness and recovery, and are rooted in the belief that all people have the potential to lead rich, full and productive lives. Founded in 1982 serves nearly 37,000 people a year. For more information, call 207-773-1956 or visit

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