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.
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