NAMI National Convention 2014

From the Article, “NAMI’s Convention Was a Colorful Panorama, Energizing People for the Year Ahead” by Bob Carolla, NAMI Director of Media Relations.

NAMI’s National Convention, held this year in Washington, D.C., will have an impact that will extend well into 2015. As always, the convention was informative, inspiring and colorful, chock-full of speakers, workshops and even performance art. (See the pictures here.)

“On the first day, we were inspired by Patrick Kennedy, Creigh Deeds and Demi Lovato and we went charging up Capitol Hill,” said NAMI Executive Director Mary Giliberti, referring to the convention’s National Day of Action.

“On the last day we listened intensely to Dr. Thomas Insel, give a tour de force through scientific research.”

Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) focused on the need for early-onset interventions and public education. He also called for not just expanding access to mental health services, but also for insisting on quality of treatment.

“There is no Food and Drug Administration, no regulatory framework for many treatment practices”

Finding Common Ground

A special policy forum, “Refocusing the Conversation: Strategies for Engaging People in Needed Services and Supports” included what was termed the most “divisive topic” in the mental health community: civil commitment and court-ordered treatment. Broad areas of agreement emerged than many might have expected: that court-ordered treatment should only be used as a last resort and that in the long-run, positive relationships make the difference for recovery rather than coercion. More fundamentally, unanimity existed over the need for insurance parity, greater investment in mental health care overall and better treatment options.

NAMI National Board Member Mike Weaver of North Carolina, compared engagement to a person entering a coffee shop. “You want things that make you want to go back,” he said. In some cases, however, treatment experiences can be as traumatic as the illness itself.” The first step must include respect for individual dignity.

Another participant pointed out, “Legal action may be a tool of last resort, but the real question is: why are we so short of so many other tools?”

Doris Fuller, executive director of the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC), said, “There is not one tool that works for every single patient, but every patient deserves a chance to recover.” She noted the challenge for persons with histories of leaving treatment, leading to a “revolving door” of homelessness, hospitalizations or encounters with the criminal justice system.

To read the entire article CLICK HERE.

Important NAMI Survey: How is Your Health Insurance Treating You?

From NAMI Blog. By Everly Groves, NAMI Policy Intern and Sita Diehl, NAMI Director of State Policy and Advocacy. Dramatic changes now taking place in our nation’s health care system should mean that people living with mental illnesses will have better access to mental health services. But will they? NAMI created a brief online Coverage for Care Survey to answer this very question. We need your help to find out how recent changes in federal law affect you and your family.

Over 11 million people with mental illness were uninsured as of 2010. Most are now eligible for mental health and substance use care because of changes to health coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA requires Medicaid expansion and individual and small group private health plans to cover mental health and substance use services as one of the 10 Essential Health Benefits. This change will mean that millions of people will be getting access to private health coverage or Medicaid for the first time.

Even more changes to mental health and substance use coverage came July 1. Provisions to the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 were put in place to ensure parity for mental health and substance use care. But what exactly is parity? Parity ensures that all plans cover mental health and substance use treatment on par with other types of care. That means fair and equal terms for what types of services are covered, the procedures necessary to get care and how much you pay out of pocket.

Coverage for Care Survey
Because these changes are so important, NAMI wants to understand how the ACA and the new parity rules affect you and your ability to get the care you need. We created the Coverage for Care Survey to learn from you.

We want to hear from everyone in need of mental health or substance use care. So if you or your family member uses these services, complete this survey! It doesn’t matter if you have private health insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE, VA health benefits, student health, any other type of coverage or don’t have coverage at all.

Take this survey on behalf of you or your loved ones in need of mental health and/or substance use care. Spread the word to your friends, family, co-workers, and colleagues. It should only take 15-20 minutes. Post the link on your Facebook or Twitter! The more responses we get, the stronger our findings will be.

The deadline to complete the survey is 12 p.m. EST on Sept. 30, 2014.

Genomic Analysis: Eight Distinct Types of Schizophrenia

From Psychiatric News Alert. Schizophrenia appears to be “heterogenous”—that is, comprising a group of related disorders each of which present with distinct clinical syndromes; and those syndromes now appear to be associated with eight separate networks of genetic mutations.

That’s the finding from a remarkable genetic analysis titled “Uncovering the Hidden Risk Architecture of the Schizophrenias: Confirmation in Three Independent Genome-Wide Association Studies,” appearing in AJP in Advance.

Schizophrenia (Sepultura album)

Schizophrenia (Sepultura album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a large genome-wide association study of cases with schizophrenia and controls, researchers with the Molecular Genetics of Schizophrenia Consortium (an international group of researchers) examined single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that grouped or clustered together and assessed the risk for schizophrenia by comparing the cases and noncases. They then looked at relationships between the SNP clusters and various ways that patients present symptomatically across three separate studies.

The authors identified 42 SNP sets associated with a 70 percent or greater risk of schizophrenia and confirmed 34 (81 percent) or more with similar high risk of schizophrenia in two independent samples. These SNP sets or genotypic networks were linked to the different ways that patients present with schizophrenia, yielding eight distinct clinical syndromes varying in symptoms and severity.

“We found that some genetic pathways increasing susceptibility involved deficient control of healthy brain development, and other pathways involved increased susceptibility to brain injury and toxicity,”

Claude Robert Cloninger, M.D., a study coauthor and a professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine, told Psychiatric News. “Regulation of the plasticity of glutamate receptors was important in some classes of schizophrenia and not others.

A Single Nucleotide Polymorphism is a change o...

“The main take home message is that there are many pathways to schizophrenia, which converge on eight classes of the disorder,” he said.

Full coverage of this study will appear in a future issue of Psychiatric News. For more information on psychiatric genetics, see the Psychiatric News article, “Revolution in Psychiatric Genetics Rapidly Gains Steam.

NAMI Family Programs Training Opportunities

  • Spanish de Familia a Familia:   October 24-26, 2014 in Sacramento,  California
  • Family to Family: November 7-11, 2014 Fresno, California
  • Basics:  January 23-25, 2015 Santa Ana, California
  • Family Support Group:  February 6-8, 2015 Chico, California
  • Family Support Group:  March 20-22, 2015 San Diego, California
  • Family to Family:  March 20-22, 2015 San Diego, California
  • Family to Family:  April 17- April 19, 2015 Bakersfield, California
  • Family to Family:  May 15-17, 2015  Vacaville, California
  • Basics:  May 15-17, 2015 Vacaville, California

There will also be a Family to Family training offered by the LACCC (NAMI Los Angeles County).  It will be held in Malibu, California on December 12-14th, 2014.  For more information, please email Sharon Dunas at

Grants will also be available to NAMI California affiliates desiring to put on their own trainings.  Please contact Lynn Cathy at for further details. 

The above trainings are also posted on the NAMI Family Blog: 

Early Intervention Can Reduce Later Psychiatric Problems for At-Risk Children

FROM PSYCHIATRIC NEWS ALERT: Early and sustained intervention of children with conduct problems can lower the chances that those problems will extend into adulthood, reports a new study published in AJP in Advance titled “Impact of Early Intervention on Psychopathology, Crime, and Well-Being at Age 25.”

Known as Fast Track, this project enrolled kindergarteners who displayed aggressive or disruptive behaviors into a multi-component, 10-year, manualized program aimed at instilling social competencies that would extend throughout their lifetimes

“through social skills training, parent behavior-management training with home visiting, peer coaching, reading tutoring, and classroom social-emotional curricula,”

the researchers noted. The program took place in four communities: Durham, N.C., Nashville, Seattle, and rural Pennsylvania. A similar set of at-risk children receiving only the standard interventions in their community were followed as a control group.

There has not been much evidence showing that behavioral improvements in children translate into adulthood, but so far, the Fast Track study seems to suggests that such an intervention can have an impact, finding that while 69% of the adults in the control group displaying at least one psychiatric problem at age 25, only 59% of Fast Track participants displayed a psychiatric problem at the same age. Fast Track participants also displayed decreased rates of substance abuse crimes, violent crimes, and risky sexual behavior compared with controls, as well as higher levels of happiness and well-being.

“This shows that we can go a full eight years after last seeing these children and still see reductions in the rates of problem outcomes for this group as young adults,”

said study author Kenneth Dodge, Ph.D., director of the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University.

The improvements in behavior were consistent among each of the 13 subgroups assessed (including those defined by gender, ethnicity, study site, etc.), demonstrating that this approach has potential for a wide range of children and risk levels.

To read about a promising early-intervention effort with children in Australia, known as Headspace, see the Psychiatric News article “Australian Youth Get a ‘Soft Entry’ Into Mental Health System.”

Mental Illness Program Could Transform L.A. County Justice System

From the LA Times

Los Angeles officials announced Wednesday the launch of an alternative sentencing program aimed at diverting mentally ill, low-level offenders from jail into treatment, a project they hope will signal a dramatic shift for the county’s criminal justice system..

The $756,000 initiative marks one of the county’s most significant attempts to find a better way to treat people who have mental illness and wind up in the criminal justice system by offering them transitional housing, medical treatment and job-hunting help. Officials say the pilot program will start in Van Nuys and initially help 50 people at a time, but it is expected to spread throughout the county and could accommodate up to 1,000 people at once.

The program is designed to reduce jail overcrowding and end a revolving door for offenders with mental illness who find themselves incarcerated for relatively minor crimes.

“It is time to stop bouncing people who are mentally ill and genuinely sick between the streets and our jails,” said Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey. “This is an unconscionable waste of human life and money.”

Read the full article HERE

Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey, City Atty. Mike Feuer and L.A. County Superior Court Presiding Judge David Wesley, right, at a news conference on the pilot mental health diversion program, which they support. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)