National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Evelyne Tropper, Ph.D.
Nominated by NAMI Champlain Valley, New York
My daughter has lived with us since she was diagnosed 15 years ago. We have been through multiple suicide-attempts, multiple hospitalizations and her running away a few times. She has been on most anti-psychotic medications without success until she underwent ECT.
What brought you to NAMI and what roles have you played in your NAMI Affiliate and NAMI State Organization?
My daughter has had schizophrenia for 18 years and I have tried to find ways to help recovery, to improve services and treatments, to minimize stigma and to obtain more equitable legislation ever since. NAMI is the best venue and organization to accomplish this goal at the local, state and national levels. For these reasons I was among the group of family members that first established our local affiliate. I have served on the board of NAMI Champlain Valley for four years and on the NAMI-NYS board for one year. At my affiliate I have contributed in a number of capacities: showing “Minds on the Edge” at the local university and hospital, serving on a panel with a mental health court judge to discuss the implications of this PBS program, making a presentation at the local high school on awareness and stigma busting, participating in a soup-cook-off and art sale for fund raising, pushing for a NAMI campus group, being a Family-to-Family certified teacher and facilitating the family support group. I pushed to have a NAMI representative at the local hospital at discharge time in order to ensure compliance with state laws and to distribute the Family Handbook to family members. At the state level, I served on the Strategic Planning, Wellness, Affiliate Support, Housing, Program, Marketing and Bylaws committees. I tried to find methods to run the Family-to-Family class by teleconferencing in very sparsely- populated, rural regions. In order to influence legislators to support more equitable laws for people with brain disorders, I participated in the Legislative Day at the state capitol.
What advocacy and organizational priority areas do you believe NAMI should be pursuing in the next three years and how can you help as a Board member?
NAMI must be the prime voice to push for more research money, better treatments, humane housing, for a better quality of life for our family members and to erase stigma. I have a vision of starting a type of “Fair Trade” nation-wide chain of peer-run businesses for people with brain disorders. The businesses employing our family members could make jewelry, bead bags and accessories, tie-dyed silk scarves and wall hangings, hand-knitted sweaters, scarves, gloves and hats, wooden bird-houses, chimes and plant shelving. It could have a pool of handymen and so much more. As an ex-entrepreneur having run a web design business, I can examine Small Business Administration rules on starting businesses for people with disabilities. To improve treatment I would use my skills as a computer scientist to assemble data to show that better administered and controlled treatment can lead to a substantial reduction in state and federal money spent on jails, prisons and revolving door hospital stays of people with brain disorders. As to housing, there are many vacant state and federal buildings which are being maintained but not used which could be used for our people. Since money for mental illness has been tremendously restricted, new housing is not a viable option, but renting vacant buildings from the government and using OMH money for services could be a very-cost effective way to get housing and services all at once. ACT teams are good evidence-based treatments which could be used and should be expanded. To erase stigma, I would petition school boards and legislators to include mental illness in the health curriculum of every state.
Please describe any previous service on a board and what you regard as your greatest contribution to that organization’s work through your service on its board. How will you make service on the NAMI Board of Directors your top volunteer priority?
On my local NAMI board I have worked towards improving local care in the hospital, pushed to work with the judicial system and police, pushed to form NAMI-on-Campus at the university, fought stigma and increased awareness by talking at our local high school. At the state NAMI I pushed for better housing and legislation, new marketing ideas, wellness, affiliate growth and collaborated on sound strategic planning. On the faculty senate for the State University of NY, I co-wrote pamphlets on performance evaluations for our students and comparison studies of online versus live courses for our 64 campuses. I served on committees for student retention and support for graduation. As board member for a bilingual school in Cambridge, MA, I oversaw the curriculum to maximize students learning as well as nurturing their creativity. For the last 18 years, I have sacrificed many things in order to help my daughter recover from a devastating, life-shattering illness. As my daughter got better, I felt I had to contribute to changing the way people look at this illness and the way governments treat it as the orphan child of all illnesses. I serve on many committees and I stay informed about the latest developments in medications, treatments and NIMH studies. I wrote a letter to Mrs. Obama to support improvements in the treatment of brain disorders. I always felt NAMI was the best venue to effect change and, as a board member I would use my talents as a computer scientist, entrepreneur and writer to compile data to present to legislators, to write appeals to help NAMI accomplish its mission, and to come up with new ideas and market them.
How can you contribute to NAMI’s evolution as “a dynamic, well-run organization that seeks and engages a diverse and growing membership,” as called for in the NAMI strategic plan?
Mental illness has often and falsely been characterized as affecting a certain strata of society. This has contributed to a large portion of society turning their back on these problems as being something that does not affect them. Its universality has not been sufficiently emphasized and used to attract people to help overcome it. Until Betty Ford stated publicly she had cancer, only others got it. Until Magic Johnson said he was infected with HIV, no respectable person got it. Until Geraldo Rivera sued New York State for the abysmal state of homes for the developmentally disabled, people thought the state took care of “them”. Until television ads showed that 1 in 166 children had autism, people never thought about it. We NEED to make sure that the world knows that one in five people world-wide have a mental illness. We NEED to let people know that the associated costs of treatment and loss of revenues due to mental illness exceed those of cancer, diabetes and AIDS put together. We NEED to make people realize that every family – white, black, Hispanic, Chinese, Korean, Indian, of any religion, sexual orientation or any ethnicity – is affected by mental illness and that everyone should be involved in helping people with brain disorders. I would run a multi-language campaign to spread the word about the problems that stem from mental illness and some solutions. I would explain that a brain disorder is just like a pancreas disorder or a heart disorder, only the organ is different.
What fund raising, financial oversight, legal, marketing, or information technology expertise do you have to offer to NAMI?
As a computer scientist, I have taught techniques for marketing and bookkeeping with spread sheets, databases and PowerPoint presentations. These can be used for marketing and fund-raising for NAMI. I can use the internet to reach many people and organizations. This approach is very effective in reaching potential donors as well as researchers with interesting new approaches who could do presentations at the NAMI conventions. It can also be used to reach many legislators. I can collect data, compile and analyze it to support our point of view and advocate for more funding as a cost-saving solution in the long run. As an ex-web-design business owner, I can develop ideas to emphasize certain points on a web site or to attract people’s attention to a particular point.
Candidate Statement as Published in the NAMI Advocate
My daughter has had schizophrenia for 18 years and I have tried to find ways to help the recovery process, provide better services and treatments, minimize stigma and pass equitable legislation ever since.
I have a vision of starting a nation-wide chain of peer-run businesses for people with brain disorders. As an ex-entrepreneur, I can examine the Small Business Administration rules on starting businesses for people with disabilities. We need better treatment and utilizing my background in computer science I can show that better-administered treatment leads to substantial reductions in money spent on incarcerations and revolving-door hospital admissions. For housing, vacant government buildings could be rented and OMH money used to bring in services. To combat stigma I would work with legislators to include mental illness in the health curriculum of every state.
We NEED to let people know that the associated costs of mental illness exceed those of cancer, diabetes and AIDS together; that every family is affected by mental illness. Using the internet I would run a multi-language campaign to spread the word about the problems and would explain that a brain disorder is like a pancreas or heart disorder.
On my affiliate board I participated in bringing awareness to the local university, hospital, mental health court and high school and pushed for a NAMI campus group. I am a Family-to-Family teacher and facilitated family support groups. On the state board I pushed for better housing, better legislation, new marketing ideas, wellness, affiliate support, collaborated on strategic planning and participated in the Legislative Day.
I served on the State University of NY faculty senate and on the board of a bilingual school. I stay informed about the latest developments in medications, treatments and NIMH studies. I petitioned Mrs. Obama to support improvements in the treatment of brain disorders.Listen to Evelyne Tropper's Election Speech
Related FilesEvelyne Tropper Nomination Letter (PDF File)
Evelyne Tropper Candidate Speech