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NAMI Tennessee Native American Mental Health Summit

by Maya Smith and Jimi Kelley, NAMI Tennessee

Recovery for All
June 2009

NAMI Tennessee is proud to be participating in Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. Our signature event for the month of July is Tennessee’s first Native American Mental Health Summit. This forum will address Native American mental health disparities in Tennessee and provide a platform to discuss and advocate for resolution between Native family members, mental health consumers and health care providers. 

The summit will be held on July 24, 2009 at Tennessee State University in Nashville. The idea for this event came about in 2007 during the formation of NAMI Cheatham County, an all Native American Indian Affiliate. As families and individuals living with mental illness, members of NAMI Cheatham County advocate for culturally competent mental health care for Native American people. During this process we discovered that Native Americans make up less than 1 percent of the total population in Tennessee yet this group accounts for almost 20 percent of persons enrolled in mental health and substance abuse programs.

Discussion topics covered in the upcoming Native American Mental Health Summit will include Native health statistics (usually excluded from national health statistics), suicide rates, federally-mandated PTSD screenings for persons enrolled with Indian Health Services and mental health needs of Native Americans from both recognized and unrecognized tribal communities. The summit will answer important questions around mental health in this community such as: 

  • What are the issues facing Native people today? 
  • What culturally competent services are available?
  • How can health care providers and the Native community improve treatment and recovery options together?

Lunch will be catered by Jason Godfrey, an award-winning Cherokee caterer, indulging participants with traditional Native cuisine from different regions of North America. The speakers will include ValueOptions East Tenn. Director of Recovery and Resiliency Ron Morton (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and a long time NAMI member), Native drug-and-alcohol counselor Robert Chapman, Native youth counselor Renee Lopes-Pocknett (Gay Head Wampanoag) and Native psychologist/counselor/spiritual leader Ron Christman (Viejas Band of Kumeyaay). Their experience working with both Native communities and in the Mental Health Care community will provide both the bridge and the catalyst to creating a collaborative relationship between the two. We will explore what steps need to be taken to create effective culturally competent care in the mental health and substance abuse systems of Tennessee. We believe that with early and effective care, Native people living with mental illness and/or substance abuse issues can lead fulfilling lives.

Registration for this event is accessible online at the NAMI Tennessee Web site.

For more information please contact NAMI Tennessee at (800) 467-3589 or send an e-mail to Jimi Kelley.


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