July 6, 2006
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) convened its first Multicultural Strategic Summit in Washington, D.C. from June 28 to July 2. The summit was held in conjunction with NAMI’s National Convention and as a result of four years of study, planning, and organizing by NAMI's Multicultural Action Center.
Involving 25 other organizations, the Summit represents the first large, national gathering of leaders, researchers, practitioners, families, and individuals living with mental illnesses, coming together to address mental healthcare equality.
The Summit consisted of five workshops, symposia, and plenary sessions, each addressing issues involving mental health within ethnic minority communities, the achievement of cultural competence, and the elimination of disparities in mental healthcare.
The Summit focused on issues specifically relevant to the African American, Asian American, Latino, American Indian and Alaska Native communities. The sessions culminated in a Town Hall Meeting that produced a national advocacy plan, including over 50 action items for the upcoming year.
The development of the national advocacy plan centered on four areas of priority established through a Multicultural Partners Coalition meeting held Wednesday, June 28.
The priority areas include:
Using these priority areas as a focus, Summit participants then helped to craft the national advocacy plan through a suggestion box and Town Hall discussion.
Through the development of the national advocacy plan, the Multicultural Summit was able to take active steps not only to recognize minority mental health issues, but also to specifically address them. As emphasized by Fred Sandoval, first vice-president of the NAMI national board for 2006-2007 (pictured), “Our movement includes multicultural action – we need to reach out to communities that were too often ignored or overlooked, until the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report not long ago. These communities have unique perspectives and unique needs.”