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New Year Notes from the President's Desk

By Gareth Fenley

Published in the NAMI Augusta Azalea, January 2010

As NAMI Augusta celebrates our 22nd anniversary of incorporation, we look back with satisfaction on our heritage and look forward with anticipation to the new year.

Big changes are happening at East Central Regional Hospital (ECRH), which most of you know as "Georgia Regional." ECRH embraces two different locations, the Augusta campus on Mike Padgett Highway (which is next to but not part of Serenity Behavioral Health), and the Gracewood campus on Tobacco Road. As reported earlier in the Azalea, the entire ECRH system has been placed under the leadership of the Medical College of Georgia, where I happen to have a job in the Department of Psychiatry. I have gone down to ECRH for several recent meetings. One of the things we're doing is organizing advisory councils of consumers and family members, similar to the MCG system. If you are interested, you can contact your ECRH staff person, or if that doesn't work, contact me.

It is my pleasure to welcome the Clinical Director for both ECRH campuses, Dr. Juan DeLecuona, as NAMI Augusta's first educational speaker of 2010. One topic Dr. DeLecuona will be discussing is electroconvulsive therapy. ECT will soon be practiced at ECRH for the first time in some years. This is a controversial procedure. Some people say it has saved their lives by relieving distress that nothing else seemed to touch. Other people say it ruined their lives because of memory loss. An important point to note is that the technique has changed greatly, so that ECT today is not what it was in the past. I watched ECT performed a few years ago, although I haven't personally had it done to me. My opinion is that ECT can be offered as a reasonable option as long as there is voluntary informed consent. What are your thoughts? I encourage everyone to attend this presentation to learn more and to share your own experiences and opinions.

I'm very excited about the 2010 NAMI National Convention set for Fourth of July Week in Washington, DC. I have submitted a workshop proposal, and I want to make it a priority for Augusta to be represented by several members. This means we need to work on fundraising! Thanks to many generous individual and corporate donors, both directly to NAMI Augusta and through the Bert Yancey Memorial Tournament, we are well on our way. But if we want to offer financial aid without cutting some of our other programs such as awarding another scholarship for Certified Peer Specialist training we'll need more fundraising for 2010.

On a final note, I've been keeping very busy with one thing and another. I drove to Atlanta for NAMI Georgia's most recent state Board meeting. I also participate regularly in conference call meetings for NAMI's LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) national leadership group. Also in a new role, I have been selected to join the Mental Health Veterans Consumer Advisory Council at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center here in Augusta.

See you in 2010! -- Gareth


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