Looking Forward to 2015

By Mary Giliberti, J.D., NAMI Executive Director

It’s no secret that NAMI wants to build a broad movement to improve the lives of all people affected by mental illness. In 2014, I could feel the movement growing, especially in trips to meet with grassroots NAMI leaders in such diverse states such as Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Montana, Tennessee and Texas. The energy and commitment of NAMI volunteers is always impressive—and essential to the future.

Taken together, many developments in 2014 provide a foundation for 2015 and years ahead. The challenge is to keep building on these opportunities.

· Philanthropist Ted Stanley donated $650 million to the Broad Institute for brain research to potentially develop new treatments. In the words of NAMI’s medical director, Ken Duckworth, it is a new “ ground-breaker” for scientific research on mental illness. Medical science is a cornerstone for NAMI’s commitment to improve the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness.

· USA Today launched a special series, The Cost of Not Caring , about the inadequate mental health care system which inspired dialogue in communities around the country. NAMI worked closely on the series, helping identify people affected by the issues so their personal stories could educate readers.

· Diverse faith communities increased their focus on the need to help people find treatment for mental health problems. The most dramatic event was “The Gathering” of religious leaders and mental health experts organized by the Saddleback Church, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange and NAMI Orange County that provided a nationally significant model for outreach.

· The call for Congress to pass mental health care legislation increased. NAMI sponsored aNational Day of Action in which recording artist and actress Demi Lovato participated, amplifying our voice. NAMI also published a state legislative report for 2014, gathering all of the mental health legislation that passed in the past year. We will be continuing our efforts at the state and federal level to meet the objectives of our new strategic plan and address issues such as homelessness, criminalization of people with mental illness, early intervention and treatment, and the needs of service men and women, veterans and their families.

· Along with others, NAMI won an important victory by defeating proposed restrictions on access to medications under Medicare Part D. Protection of shared decision-making by doctors and individuals is a key NAMI value and we will continue our efforts to ensure access to treatment that works.

· Attention increased this year on the need to end the criminalization of mental illness. NAMI helped shape the debate with its call for nationwide expansion of crisis intervention teams (CIT). In 2015, NAMI, the Council of State Governments, the National Association of Counties and others will build on this momentum by launching an unprecedented campaign to lower the number of people with mental illnesses in jails by improving access to effective mental health and co-occurring substance use treatment.

· Major inroads were made with youth and young adults through the NAMI on Campus program, with 85 active clubs on campuses across the country and 240 in the process of being formed. Additionally, NAMI’s Raising Mental Health Awareness on College Campuses toolkit was sent to more than 300 campus communities. Young adults leading these groups and activities are NAMI leaders of the future!

Every movement has many different centers of energy, creativity and commitment. Both large and small events converge to form greater waves of change. Looking back on 2014, are there trends or events that you think provide hope, inspiration or opportunities for the future?

Do you have ideas you want to share for 2015?

Please feel free to share them with me at executivedirector@nami.org. I may not be able to reply individually, but I can promise to read every message personally.

In the meantime, best wishes for the holidays and the New Year. Thank you for all you do on behalf of people living with mental illness and their families!

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