I have been a family member since my sister became ill with paranoid schizophrenia in 1960, followed by my daughterís identical illness in 1980. I have experienced both a tragic outcome (my sister has never been free of psychosis) and a very happy one (my daughter now lives in recovery.)
I finally found NAMI in Vermont in 1989 after many years of searching for support and information, desperate to find better ways to help my daughter and my sister, both ill with schizophrenia. I joined the state board within six months of moving to the state, and benefitted beyond measure from the advocacy tutelage of the three extraordinary founders of NAMI-Vermont stlll active on the board. I subsequently served as state president for four years, with a board committed to building a strong partnership with the mental health department to improve adult and childrenís services, expand the PACT program, and increase support for peer education. Most critically, I was able to devise service contracts with the department to fund our education programming throughout the state, giving us the support we needed to expand our state office staff and plan more wisely and strategically. When I later moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico in 2005, the NAMI affiliate there had become inactive, save for publishing their excellent monthly newsletter. Finding a kindred spirit in a past president of the affiliate, we joined forces to revive the Family-to- Family program with the express goal of recruiting outstanding class participants so we could rebuild the local organization. Within two years of teaching classes, NAMI-Santa Fe was again a going concern directed by a stellar new board, which I joined for 3 years. In all my years of service, I have loved working in the grass roots most of all; it is NAMIís heartbeat and ultimate source of inspiration..
I see 4 priorities: 1) Given the mounting evidence of the recovery potential in offering clinical/rehabilitative services in the immediate aftermath of first-episode mental illness, NAMI has the opportunity to arouse the nation as it did in its campaign to teach America that these conditions are real medical illnesses. Early intervention and treatment must become our next mission, and we must articulate the ways in which Americaís mental health system can make this transformational shift; 2) New medications in the pipeline have slowed and stalled to a troubling plateau, with some companies abandoning the discovery of psychiatric medications altogether. NAMI must continue to advocate that research for novel medications which lead to better treatment outcomes be increased; 3) In a world of rapidly changing information access, NAMI must embrace new media technologies. We need to reach a wider audience with our education and support group programs while preserving the integrity of the personal bonding and privacy on which they are based. We need to try new approaches--short informational programs, expressive videos with emotional impact, audio programs with experts, and more dramatic exposure of our stories of resilience and recovery; 4) We must recruit many more people with mental illness into NAMI and keep expanding leadership opportunities for them through participation on NAMI boards and programs. I believe that NAMIís credibility and relevancy as the leading advocacy organization for mental illness depends on the success of this effort. How can I help? As a clinician dedicated to families of people with mental illness and the loved ones they care for, a former public servant practiced in collaboration and innovation to solve public problems, and an aspiring change agent of radical bent, I can bring a variety of professional and advocacy skills to further these goals.
As the first woman in my district elected to the Suffolk County (NY) Board of Supervisors, I contributed to the creation of the first farmland preservation program in the nation. I had to persuade farmers owning large tracts of land in the district to sell their development rights in perpetuity to the county, rather than hold out for the windfall of exorbitantly rising prices from developers. It was an indelible lesson in how to advance a common cause through the patient resolution of hugely competing interests. On the NAMI-Vermont board, I was privileged to have the opportunity to write and develop Family-to-Family and to empower family caregivers as teachers in an era where respect for our knowledge gleaned from lived experience was practically nil. Itís been an unforgettable experience for me to serve NAMI in this way, although I always say a far greater effort than mine is made by the countless number of volunteer teachers who keep the program going and mentor so many new leaders into NAMI. Iím more forthcoming about my contribution to the Provider Education Program. It was totally gutsy back in 1995 to assert that most providers had a regrettable blind spot in their training, that they could fix it only by learning how mental illness really goes down from the individuals and family members who live it, and that they were required to attend NAMI-Vermontís training program. I still relish the footnote that we taught in every public agency in Vermont, we persuaded the department of mental health to pay for it, and the training is still offered there today. NAMI has been my priority for most of my working life. Now retired, Iím eager to re-enlist and make the NAMI Board my top volunteer priority.
Iím good at oversight, parsing budget reports, keeping the big picture in mind in a canvas of details, collective problem solving, thinking out of the box, defining and facing realities in decision makingóall of these are skills Iíve learned throughout my work life and from many of my colleagues in NAMI in my job directing NAMIís Education Center for 10 years. My institutional memory of NAMI goes back to the organizationís second decade, but my vision for NAMI has always depended on, and been moved forward by, the innovators in the grass roots-- the canaries in the mine who give us the signal to shift our priorities toward more heart-warming and inclusive practices. Chief among these have been the people with mental illness who first blazed their way into NAMI, insisting on commensurate respect and commensurate responsibilities. When I served as president of NAMIís state presidentís council in the 1990s, the issue of consumer inclusion came to a head, and I was privileged to work with the Consumer Council to win approval of consumer participation and leadership at all levels of NAMI activities. I have also wrestled as many of us have with finding ways to attract a more diverse membership, particularly among people of color, through our education and support programs. I remain convinced that we can accomplish this goal if we learn how to listen to and be guided by the people we wish to bring in, make enduring relationships with them the guardian of our partnerships together, and keep our strategic focus for success grounded in the local communities we share.
My expertise in raising money would be a significant contribution I could make to NAMI. In my first career, I was a professional fundraiser working as national director of alumnae giving for Vassar College, my alma mater. Although properly intimidated by the charge to amass ten million dollars over a four year period, I quickly found the access to one of the magic keys of fund raising: namely, if you have received untold benefits from an organization whose purpose you deeply believe in, you can boldly promote it to others and solicit a contribution to its mission. I think we have a bit of a way to go in convincing all NAMI folks to approach the people they know to make a gift to our cause, but the NAMI WALKS have helped enormously to get us more in the habit of asking for money for NAMI. The fact is, though, that NAMI could accomplish so much more for people with mental illness if a whole lot of us got behind vigorous personal and corporate fundraising on behalf of our organization. As a national board member, I would want to explore ways we could increase the proportion of our annual income coming from special gifts and repeating contributions and find ways to realize larger returns from a bigger pool of contributors.
|Job Title or Position:||Retired|
|NAMI Affiliations:||NAMI Santa Fe, NAMI New Orleans
|Other Board Service:||I am not currently serving on other boards|
|Public Office:||I am not currently serving in any public/elected office|
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