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Candidates

Linda Welsch Jensen

Linda Welsch Jensen, Ph.D., R.N.

Nominated by NAMI Nebraska

NAMI saved our familyís lives. My son, diagnosed with schizophrenia, is working as a peer specialist and completing his Masterís in Counseling. I helped organize the Central Nebraska NAMI affiliate, served NAMI Nebraska BOD 14 years, seven as President. I served on the NAMI BOD since 2010. NAMI brings hope!

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

Shortly after my son was hospitalized in 1991, I heard about NAMI from a colleague nursing instructor. I could not find a NAMI affiliate in rural Nebraska. My husband and I formed the Central Nebraska NAMI affiliate. We met others who saw the need for a state office to connect affiliates and began reorganizing the Board of Directors for NAMI Nebraska. We showed the importance of funding and opened the first executive office in 1998. I served as president of NAMI Nebraska for 5 years, and then coordinated state conferences. I went back on the BOD, served as secretary and vice president, and then again as president from 2007-2009. I was on the NAMI Nebraska Board of Directors a total of 14 years. I became active in the State Presidentís Council and served as Regional Representative from the Central States for two years and participated in the NAMI Rural Interest Group.

Advocacy became prominent in my role as NAMI Nebraska president, and also as an elected member of the Nebraska Nurses Association Commission on Advocacy and Representation. I testified numerous times in the Nebraska Legislature, and was appointed by the Governor of Nebraska to the statewide Behavioral Health Reform Council, the Planning and Evaluation Council and other task forces. I represented Nebraska, and also gave reports of my research with consumers and family members at SAMHSA conferences.

I am currently secretary and Education Committee Chair for the Board of Directors for NAMI Omaha I am a Family-to-Family Program Coordinator, trainer and teacher collaborating with VA, started a local support group, organized research, and coordinated trainings for NAMI-CARE, IOOV, WRAP, Family-to-Family teachers, and state conferences. My son is becoming active with NAMI as a Connection facilitator, a CIT trainer, and last year was a speaker at convention. We love NAMI!

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 brings an important message of hope to people with mental illnesses and their families. Our affiliates and our members are the lifeblood of our organization. We must provide our affiliates and state organizations with technical assistance to reach the Standards of Excellence, use technology, and maximize available resources. Due to modern technology we were able to hold Family to Family classes in 3 sites in rural Nebraska using telemedicine equipment. We must adapt our Signature programs and other trainings for the rural areas and diverse populations, while maintaining program fidelity and purposes. I have a dream that someday all families will find NAMI when they first begin to have mental health problems. They need the coping, communication, skills, and resources we have learned about. We must network with other organizations to find more ways to get information distributed, grow our programs, obtain more grants and other funding, and erase stigma.

I have accomplished the work of organizing and maintaining a rural affiliate, besides reorganizing our NAMI Nebraska Board of Directors and finding funding for the office. I would be pleased to use my background in nursing education to help organize and coordinate trainings for affiliate leaders as they work on the Standards of Excellence and grow their affiliates. These could be done using webinars and various distance learning techniques that I currently use in my work as a nursing professor. Helping our affiliates learn about the further development of our new data management system has so many possibilities.

We currently have several wonderful programs to help families and persons with mental illnesses with Recovery. However, we need to engage a diversity of people in a process of quality improvement, and adapt and/or design new programs that will be effective with diverse populations.

Please describe any previous service on a board and what you regard as your greatest contribution to that organizationís work through your service on its board. How will you make service on the NAMI Board of Directors your top volunteer priority?

I served on the NAMI Board of Directors the past three years, actively participating as Co/chair of Convention, Personnel, and Planning committees, and on the Strategic Planning and Education Advisory Group. I have made NAMI Board service my top priority, and have participated in each meeting, questioning information, bringing new ideas, and contributing to the work sessions.

As a member of NAMI Nebraska Board of Directors for 14 years, I was president for 7 years, and served as conference and training coordinator. My greatest contribution to NAMI Nebraska was securing funding through a state contract to open a State Executive office. As a member of the Board of Directors of our local Central Nebraska affiliate for 16 years, I started a support group which has been functioning for over 15 years, secured grant funding, and 501c3 status for the affiliate.

As a member of Nebraska Nurses Association, I was Chair of the Advocacy and Representation Commission for 4 years and organized a yearly Legislative Breakfast. I organized a Mental Health Task Force to raise awareness of mental health problems and testified at numerous Legislative and government hearings. As Chair of a Mental Health Task Force for Buffalo County Community Partners, I was involved in a federal grant for Suicide Prevention for the university student health center, organizing a student mental health group, and integrating mental health care into the student health program. As Vice Chair of the Nebraska Planning and Evaluation Council for 4 years, I helped find state funding to start Peer Support in Nebraska.

How can you contribute to NAMIís evolution as ďa dynamic, well-run organization that seeks and engages a diverse and growing membership,Ē as called for in the NAMI strategic plan?

I lived most of my life in rural Nebraska, although 6 years ago I moved to a metropolitan suburb and work in an inner city area. It is interesting to see the similarities and the contrasts, while adapting my teaching and NAMI programs to meet peopleís needs. My students in Healthcare Delivery have completed numerous studies of nonprofit health related service organizations, and I can use that information to help improve NAMIís programs. I enjoy telling students about NAMI and helping them get involved in NAMI programs and the NAMI Walk. Our College has been a Bronze supporter each year since the Walk started in Nebraska, organizing a team and wellness table.

I also enjoy recruiting people from diverse populations to participate in our NAMI affiliates and state organizations. As diversity is considered a major focus in my college, I have led students to participate in several diversity projects in my classes. Inclusion of diversity into NAMI brings richness, and also more knowledge about how to reach and empower more people. Cultural competence about every ethnicity and culture may not be completely attainable; however we should always seek to learn more about peopleís needs, and how to engage them in our organizationís programs. We must continue to seek the active involvement of a diversity of people with lived experience with mental illness and empower them to lead NAMI in the future.

Listening to my son, to other people living with mental illness, and to families has taught me more than all my degrees. All people touched by mental illness need to be empowered to serve vital roles in our organization and to teach us about the programs and assistance that are needed to serve more people and improve mental health systems, education, support, and advocacy.

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

I worked in healthcare for over 45 years and currently am an Associate Professor of Nursing in a Graduate MSN Program. I contributed actively as chair and as member of numerous committees at affiliate, state, and national levels of NAMI. I always seek to involve all members in voice and participation. When I first became the President of NAMI Nebraska, I also served as the Executive Officer until we found funding to hire an Executive Director. I found and coordinated numerous grant funds for research, conferences, and trainings, so I am very familiar with financial oversight. I marketed trainings and coordinated the funds to maximize the resources. I found one of the best marketing techniques was networking with other agencies and organizations. Another successful technique is to make processes for participation user friendly, providing for diversity and disability needs as much as possible. As people begin working within the NAMI affiliates, they frequently need technical assistance, mentoring, coaching, and other support to be empowered with the NAMI programs. The process of empowerment is a part of my nursing philosophy and teaching. It has also been an important part of my participation in NAMI. I currently enjoy teaching several graduate nursing courses using distance learning techniques and could encourage and assist with development of more use of technology for internet meetings, trainings, and conferences. Our members need streamlined efficient systems to participate fully in meetings, conferences, and trainings. We must build efficient systems to engage and empower others to accomplish our mission. I have learned tremendously in my service on the NAMI Board of Directors for the past 3 years, and hope to continue to lead to help NAMI, the state organizations, and their affiliates grow and become a more effective and efficient system for support, education, advocacy, and research.

Job Title or Position: Associate Professor
Employer: Clarkson College
NAMI Affiliations: NAMI Nebraska, Family-to-Family Trainer and Coordinator NAMI Omaha, Education and Support Programs Coordinator; Family-to-Family teacher NAMI Omaha, Board of Directors member
Other Board Service: I am not currently serving on any other boards of directors
Public Office: I am not currently serving in any public/elected office

Candidate Statement as Published in the NAMI Advocate

NAMI saved our familyís lives. Shortly after my son was hospitalized in 1991, I heard about NAMI from a colleague nursing instructor. I could not find a NAMI affiliate in rural Nebraska. My husband and I formed the Central Nebraska NAMI affiliate. We met state officials who saw the need for a state office to connect affiliates. We demonstrated the need for funding and opened the first NAMI Nebraska office. I served the Board of Directors 14 years, became a Family-to-Family program coordinator, teacher, and trainer; started a local support group, organized research, organized coalitions, and coordinated trainings for NAMI-CARE, IOOV, WRAP, Family to Family teachers, and state conferences. I give thanks that my son progressed in his recovery, is a peer specialist, and finishing his internship for MS in Counseling. He enjoys being a Connection facilitator for a Veterans Administration group.

I served on the NAMI Board of Directors the past three years, actively participating as Co/chair of Convention, Personnel, and Planning committees, and as a member of the Finance, Strategic Planning, and Education Advisory Committees. NAMI brings an important message of hope to people with mental illnesses and their families. Our affiliates and members are the lifeblood of our organization. We must provide our affiliates and state organizations with technical assistance to reach the Standards of Excellence, use technology, and maximize available resources. We have held Family-to-Family classes in rural Nebraska using telemedicine equipment. We must adapt our Signature programs for the rural areas and diverse populations, while maintaining program fidelity and purposes. My goal is that someday all families will find NAMI when they first begin to experience mental health problems. We must network with other organizations to find more ways to get information distributed, grow our programs, obtain more grants and funding, and erase stigma.


Related Files

Linda Jensen Candidate Speech

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