How to Strengthen Your NAMI Affiliate
Patricia Sine, left, and Bill Perun accepting their award - July 9, 2016
I have been involved with NAMI since 1990. I attended my first meeting after my daughter, a senior in high school at the time, was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I joined NAMI that day because I wanted to support this powerful and formidable national advocacy organization, and I knew I would receive support, information, resources and hope.
NAMI has been an integral part of my life for the last 26 years. I served as a volunteer, then as secretary and co-president of the Rochester Board of Directors before being appointed the role of executive director. I also facilitate the family support groups and am one of the FSG state trainers. I’ve also taught Family-to-Family classes for over 15 years.
I was honored to accept the Outstanding NAMI Affiliate Award on behalf of NAMI Rochester, NY at the 2016 NAMI National Convention. Our affiliate is celebrating 35 years of service in 2015 with 450 members, five staff members and 60+ volunteers who served over 7,000 people with our nine signature programs and our third walk. Here are some key points that I believe are essential to building a successful affiliate:
Educate Yourself. Take advantage of the wealth of information available at your state NAMI, and NAMI National. Attend conferences and workshops in your local community in order to keep informed about the current service delivery system. Join the Community Services Board (or the local oversight board); they are obligated to have peer/family members on their board and subcommittees. Make your voice heard!
Encourage New Participants. When in groups and classes, listen to everyone share their passions, skills, talents and interests—and then recruit them! Mentor and support them if and when they start teaching, facilitating or presenting a NAMI program. As you get to know the members and attendees, look for experts in marketing, business management, investing, etc. and encourage them to join committees or run for a board position. Surround yourself with experts and learn from them. Don’t be hesitant in asking for their assistance, advice, time and energy! Members who have been helped by NAMI are grateful and want to be able to give back to the organization.
Establish Community Partnerships and Collaborations. Connect with service providers, the criminal justice system, the local Mental Health Association other peer and family organizations, colleges and high schools, and businesses—partner up! Solicit your members and board to help build relationships with the organizations and businesses where they are employed.
Promote Membership Among the Younger Generation. That way, NAMI will always be there for the future. Recruit young adults who are in recovery, and students who become interested through NAMI On Campus.
In all honesty, though, I feel that NAMI Rochester is no more outstanding than any of the other affiliates around the country because we are all passionate and dedicated family members who are bonded by our similar experiences and challenges. We are empowered by our numbers and dedicated to continuing our mission to provide support, education, advocacy and hope to the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.
Patricia Sine is the current Executive Director of NAMI Rochester, NY. She has witnessed tremendous growth in programs, services, membership and budget over the past 20 years. Patricia is honored and humbled to work for this dynamic education and advocacy national movement that is dedicated to educating the public about mental illness, offering resources to those in need and insisting that mental illness become a high national priority. Patricia also serves on the Monroe County Office of Mental Health Community Services Board and as chair of the Mental Health Subcommittee. Other projects/committees she is involved in at the county level are: Monroe County Suicide Prevention/Awareness Coalition; the Agency Directors Group; the Regional Planning Committee for the implementation of Home and Community Based Services through Medicaid Managed Care; and the on the Behavioral Health Community Crisis Stabilization Initiative as part of Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment Project.