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Janet Edelman -- Nominated by NAMI Howard County, Maryland

My 16 year old brother became ill with schizophrenia in 1970. The illness took its toll both on my brother and my parents. I have been working on our state and local NAMI Boards to build our organization and to advocate for people living with a mental illness since 1983.

What brought you to NAMI and what roles have you played in your NAMI Affiliate and NAMI State Organization?

I was introduced to NAMI by my parents who were founding members of NAMI Queens-Nassau. My brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1970 when he was 16 years old. I was motivated to become active in NAMI by my desire to learn more about my brother's illness and to help my parents cope with his illness. I attended the very first NAMI Maryland conference in 1983 where I met board members of NAMI Metro Baltimore, who drafted me for their board.

Once on the affiliate board, I saw opportunities to help others deal with mental illness. I started as the first legislative chair for NAMI Metro Baltimore and served for 12 years.

I first joined the NAMI Maryland board in 1985 and have served on that board with occasional breaks for term limits. I am currently chair of the NAMI Maryland Public Policy committee and was president from June 2008 through June 2010. In the early years of the state board I held the positions at different times of treasurer, secretary and vice president. Most of my tenure was spent as chair or co-chair of the Public Policy committee. I also developed the first NAMI Maryland website in 1995, which was one of the first NAMI state websites. I maintained that site for 12 years. For 10 years I authored an online newsletter focused on links to news items about mental illness and legislative alerts.

I joined the NAMI Howard County, Maryland board in 1999. In 2010 I became president of the Howard County affiliate.

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?

I am fully committed to implementation of the NAMI 2011-2013 Strategic Plan and the Standards of Excellence (SOE). These documents will serve to guide our organization to reach its full potential. The SOE is the key to healthy, vibrant, branded and well-run affiliates across the country.

The NAMI membership computer system and processes will be replaced over the next year or two. Once the new methods of tracking our membership are in place, we should launch a major membership drive. There are still people who need our help who have not heard of us, and NAMI will be able advocate more effectively if there are more of us.

NAMI needs to continue to diversify its funding sources. This will help maintain financial stability and remove any appearance of excessive dependence on the pharmaceutical industry.

My experience in information systems management and nonprofit governance will allow me to contribute to the Board in areas of technical oversight, infrastructure, standards and planning in order to help achieve these organizational priorities.

As a leader in our state and local affiliate public policy committees for many years, I have a grassroots' view of advocacy priorities. NAMI must advocate to:

  • Prevent loss of funding for federal agencies and state budgets.
  • Support implementation of health care reform and parity.
  • Ensure our nation provides adequate mental health services for veterans and members of the armed services.
  • Provide funding for medical research and best practices for the treatment of mental illnesses.
  • Provide services and treatment for those who are most ill and most at risk. Large numbers of people with mental illnesses are still struggling without access to adequate treatment in jails, prisons, or on the streets.
  • Ensure that children, adolescents and the elderly receive the services and treatment they require.

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.

As indicated above, I have served for many years on several NAMI boards. In addition, as chair of the NAMI State Presidents' Council for the past two years, I have participated in NAMI Board and committee meetings as a nonvoting member.

As state board president, I concentrated on governance and organizational improvements in response to IRS best practice recommendations. I initiated changes to the Board committee structure, led the development of a policy manual and instituted board training. These improvements will allow the NAMI Maryland Board to function more effectively and will pave the way for meeting requirements for NAMI chartering.

In 2003, as chair of public policy for NAMI Maryland, I led a group of dedicated NAMI Maryland committee members to change the Maryland law. We were successful in our effort to modify the standard for obtaining a petition for emergency evaluation from "imminent danger" to "danger". In addition, this group developed the brochure What to do in a Psychiatric Crisis in Maryland. Of all the things I have accomplished with NAMI, I am most proud of this work, as it had a direct effect on the care of those in psychiatric crisis.

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?

My background in project planning, business systems, information systems and NAMI public policy advocacy will allow me to be an asset to the Board. As chair of the NAMI State Presidents' Council, I have already contributed to making NAMI a well-run organization by encouraging appointment of more Council alternates and the use of surveys of the Council members. I also developed a mentoring program for state presidents.

As president of NAMI Maryland, I took the good governance guidelines from the IRS very seriously. I took the lead to develop and implement board policies, revised state organization bylaws and expanded the number of committees. As current president of my local affiliate, I am starting to put in place similar infrastructure.

NAMI will need well-functioning membership processes and computer systems in order to grow. We cannot easily handle increased volume with the system we have now. I have years of experience implementing and supporting computer systems and can help the Board with oversight of this function.

As a board member of an affiliate that has tripled in size over the past seven years, I have a good understanding of the steps needed to grow membership. We do outreach in the community (hospitals, schools, churches, community colleges, etc.) in as many ways as we can in order to get the word out about NAMI. While NAMI has taken the lead on building diversity by developing standards, training and tools, it is now up to the local affiliates to use what NAMI has supplied to attract and retain a diverse membership.

What fund raising, financial oversight, legal, marketing, or information technology expertise do you have to offer to NAMI?

My 34 year career in information systems was spent entirely at two regional banks in systems analysis, project management and team management. I have extensive experience managing the implementation of business software, office software and reporting tools. I believe that I could help the Board provide oversight of computer systems and business processes. My career allowed me to strengthen my skills in understanding people's needs and in taking an organized approach to putting processes and systems in place to meet those needs.

I have served on the finance committee of our state organization for the past three years and I was treasurer of our state organization during some of its early years. I am a member of the newly formed Finance committee for NAMI Howard County. As president of NAMI Maryland, I worked closely with two lawyers on our Board to make revisions to our bylaws. I have been an enthusiastic NAMIWalks participant and fundraiser since the first year of the Walk. For several years, I lead two Walk teams, one for my friends and the other for my co-workers.

Job Title or Position: Information Systems Manager
Employer: Retired
NAMI Affiliations: NAMI Howard County (Md.), President NAMI Maryland, Board member and Public Policy Committee Chair
Other Board Service: none
Public Office: I am not currently serving in any public/elected office.

Candidate Statement as Published in the NAMI Advocate

  1. My desire to learn more about my brother's illness and to help my parents cope with his illness brought me to NAMI. I have served on NAMI Maryland and affiliate boards since 1983. At NAMI Maryland I have served as president, vice president, secretary and treasurer, public policy chair and webmaster. I am now president of NAMI Howard County and NAMI Maryland public policy chair.
  2. NAMI three-year priorities:
    • 2011-2013 Strategic Plan
    • Standards of Excellence
    • New membership system, followed by a major membership drive
    • Funding for federal and state agencies
    • Support of health care reform and parity implementation

    My experience in information systems management and nonprofit governance will allow me to contribute in the areas of infrastructure, standards and planning. My years as a NAMI advocate have given me an understanding of national public policy issues.

  3. In addition to my service on NAMI state and local boards, I have participated as a nonvoting member at NAMI board meetings as chair of the State Presidents' Council. As state board president, I concentrated on organizational improvements in response to IRS best practice recommendations. I initiated changes to the board committee structure, led the development of a policy manual and instituted board training.
  4. My background in project planning and business systems will allow me to help NAMI's evolution as a well-run organization. As a board member of an affiliate that tripled in size over the past seven years, I have a good understanding of the steps needed to grow membership.
  5. My career in information systems will help me advise the Board on computer systems and business processes. My experience implementing financial software and my service on state and local NAMI finance committees have provided me with the background needed for financial oversight.
Listen to Janet Edelman's Election Speech

Related Files

Janet Edelman Nomination Letter (PDF File)

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