Lauren Rettagliata

Rettagliata picUse these links to go to specific areas of the profile:
Candidate speech
Experience with mental illness
Skills, knowledge and experience relative to the NAMI Strategic Plan:
Driver 1: Build a Movement
Driver 2: Leverage Technology
Driver 3: Drive Advocacy
Driver 4: Focus on Youth
Driver 5: Strengthen the Organization
Employment and other affiliations
Candidate statement in the Advocate
Letter of Nomination

Nominated by NAMI Contra Costa County (California)

Member, NAMI Contra Costa County (CA), NAMI Tri-Valley (CA)

Listen to Lauren's speech here.

My son continues to cycle through jail, inpatient hospitalization, and homelessness. My son has received many diagnoses—his last being severe depression with anxiety. I was in denial for a decade. NAMI helped me. Now, I want to help NAMI lead the way in guaranteeing care for the seriously ill.

Please describe how your skills, knowledge and experience will contribute to the NAMI Board of Directors role in delivering on the strategic plan. Using no more than 300 words per driver, respond to each of the five drivers in the 2015-2019 NAMI Strategic Plan.

Driver 1: Build A Movement - NAMI will broaden public awareness and inclusion in every part of the alliance.

When building a movement funding is essential—but not the most important thing. For NAMI the most important thing is focusing on the fact that today there is a deluge of shattered families and that what is needed is treatment for those that are the most ill. As a development director, I have led successful corporate and foundation campaign drives for those who were victims of domestic violence and child abuse. I concentrated on drawing attention to the great need to repair the lives ruined because of lack of funding for housing, legal aid, and treatment. When this was done funding followed.

NAMI needs to join with advocates who have felt abandoned by the de-emphasis on serious mental illness. I have worked with both my local NAMI and these advocates to bring a voice to the intense pain endured by those who have not received treatment. We have testified before state legislative committees and attended state capitol rallies. We have reminded both our state officials and legislators that the state funding set aside for those with a serious mental illness received an “F” from our State Auditor. At every opportunity we have used stories of our loved ones to gather the public support that was needed to change the status quo. Data is important, but real life stories form a movement.

I have helped build a community planning process that reaches all incomes, every age and ethnicity so that all can have a voice in how funding is spent. As a Commissioner, I have to assure that the spectrum of services is reaching into every level of our diverse cultural/ethnic communities along with the different age groups. We have to be assured that the limited funding we have available reaches those most in need first.

Driver 2: Leverage Technology - NAMI will expand use of technology to build capacity and connection.

Technology is important, but many times it becomes forgotten that personal interconnection is the key and that technology is the tool.

People in crisis will turn to the internet and social media to gain access to people who can help. It is essential that local affiliates have websites available to provide the connection to the valuable services that will save lives. NAMI can play an essential role in providing technical assistance and support to the local affiliates helping them mobilize and improve their websites. Many websites are highly centered on getting people to donate. When my son, who was seeking help, accessed the NAMI site a huge green screen that said DONATE dropped down. His response was all these people care about is getting money. I would counsel NAMI to de-emphasis donate as the first experience one has when accessing the website. Using technology to expand funding is every non-profits dream especially those that perform such an essential service as NAMI, but it must be done correctly. As a Board member, I would be very interested in pursuing who has the expertise to do this. I will advocate for listening to our local base because that is where we will find the next important spark that will ignite people into becoming part of the solution.

Technology must be employed to reach those who are in isolated places either by geography or by the nature of their illness. We know that Crisis Lines and Text 741741 save lives. Outreach using technology is a tool that needs greater exposure. I have yet to run across a “crisis plan” app. I am sure one is out there. NAMI could work with medical providers and law enforcement to standardize and make this an important tool to help those in crisis.

Driver 3: Drive Advocacy - NAMI will lead advocacy efforts that drive increased access and quality.

I am running on the "Focus on Serious Mental Illness" ticket. While local affiliates focus on the seriously mentally ill, this is the only area of the “Strategic Drivers and Goals 2015-2019” that addresses serious mental illness for adults. This ticket will attempt to place the focus of NAMI back to its roots: guaranteeing care for those with a seriously mentally illness.

With my local NAMI I have built programs for the difficult to engage. I have worked to support our Residential Crisis Center and duplicate it throughout our county. I have sought funding so our Behavioral Health Clinics can offer expanded hours of treatment with a psychiatrist available for crisis situations in order to alleviate the crushing numbers who impact the Psych-Emergency unit of our county hospital. I am working with our local NAMI on developing a residential farm as supportive housing in the rural area of our county that will welcome veterans. As a Mental Health Commissioner I have partnered with the local NAMI Board, the Sheriff, and County Supervisors to acquire a $70 million grant to build a new detention unit that incorporates mental health and substance abuse treatment.

In collaboration with those with a mental illness, other family members, and providers I have been working on a campaign to bring parity to “specialty mental health” in California. Federal and California laws require private insurers to guarantee equal rights and medically necessary treatment to both physical and mental illness, but California’s public health insurance discriminates against treatment of serious mental illnesses. Our state still operates with a “carve out” and a waiver that denies equality, separates treatment from the mainstream medical system, makes no guarantee of timely treatment, and operates with no mandated standards.

NAMI must work to ensure mental illness is classified as a medical condition.

Driver 4: Focus on Youth - NAMI will develop and implement strategies that engage youth, young adults and their families, expanding our reach across the lifespan.

I have advocated for a children’s program that is centered on family treatment. This is an early intervention in psychosis program. It works with young people (ages 12-25) and their families when they are first showing signs of psychosis, before they have developed a full-fledged psychotic disorder. Our aim is to provide intensive services when symptoms first appear and to prevent a more serious disorder from developing. Intensive treatment has shown promise in lessening symptoms. Research is still closely investigating these programs to learn how and why they work. We have called this program First Hope. In the “hope” that this will change the course of the life of the children who are enrolled.

NAMI Basics is a life line for many families and caregivers of children. Since many children who are severely emotionally disturbed are placed in special education classes or at times mainstreamed getting their teachers training is a daunting task. NAMI can act as the advocate to insure educational funding for children who are severely emotionally disturbed does not come from the mental health budget but instead comes from education funding. The Supreme Court has mandated that children who are severely emotionally disturbed receive not a minimal but a robust education.

Educators and teachers are many times not aware of the research and evidence based practices that are improving quality of care. It is the educated parents through programs such as NAMI Basics that are the catalysis that require the needed neuropsychological testing and essential Individual Education Plans (IEPs). NAMI needs to harness the compassion and intensity that now drives funding for children’s programs and increase the funding for research so that in the future recovery from a serious mental illness is no longer the exception to the rule.

Driver 5: Strengthen the Organization - NAMI will grow and develop financing, infrastructure and capacity that support a vibrant and bold organization.

People are willing to work and donate towards causes they care about deeply, but people must be asked. The “ask” must be simple and straight forward. Breast Cancer has its walks for the cure, AIDSride has its bike journey, and we have NAMIWalks. Yet, we have not made the all-out commitment that they did of appearing in every major media outlet. ALS had a different experience with a local mom going viral. NAMI can do both of these things.

These non-profits did not back down in their campaign for awareness and funding. The very fact they faced stigma head on added power to their cause. They ran campaigns demanding treatment. NAMI needs to own what it is seeking to treat -- mental illness. NAMI needs to brand itself as the voice of mental illness that helps the one in four that are struggling to find a road map to help them locate the services and resources in their community. NAMI needs to become the GPS for those looking for help.

NAMI needs to have brochures and literature in every doctor’s office. My local NAMI has invited doctors to speak at our local meetings—they now provide information to their patients. Our county hospital has a NAMI sign in its main lobby telling people about a Crash Course on how to navigate mental health services. NAMI is the organization our law enforcement turns to provide Crisis Intervention Training. NAMI now needs to make law enforcement our partners who present NAMI literature to those families they encounter. NAMI needs to be in every faith community’s web page and bulletin. NAMI is making great strides with this. We need to double down on our efforts so that doctors, faith leaders, and law enforcement direct those in need to us.

Job Title or Position: Temescal Counsel

Employer: Self-employed

Other Board Service: Family Member Representative, Mental Health Commission of Contra Costa County, current through 2018

Candidate Statement as Published in the NAMI Advocate

My son continues to cycle through jail, inpatient hospitalization, and homelessness. My son has received many diagnoses—his last being severe depression with anxiety. I was in denial for a decade. NAMI helped me. Now, I want to help NAMI lead the way in guaranteeing care for the seriously ill.

Desperation brought me to NAMI. As a family we were unprepared to care for our son who was in denial. I became a “family voice” and chaired the state mandated Mental Health Commission. We sounded the alarm about overflowing psychiatric emergency rooms and documented how broken the system is. Every week, I help families who cannot find in-patient psychiatric care, crisis residential placement, or families that are concerned that a love one is in jail and should be receiving psychiatric care.

Since there are many families like mine, I want to mobilize NAMI’s resources to insist on real parity. What exists now is not working -- states have “carve-outs” for those who receive Medicaid/Medicare and private insurers have few psychiatrists that will take patients. I will help NAMI focus on increasing in-patient psychiatric beds and transitional care in the community with supportive housing. We should be working towards a future where recovery is the rule for all, but until then everyone with a mental illness deserves the most effective treatment. I believe this is why NAMI exists.

I am running on the “Focus on the Serious Mental Illness” ticket—DJ Jaffe, Robert Laitman, Lauren Rettagliata, and Mary Zdanowicz. Please vote for all of us. Too many of our loved ones have not received the treatment they need. Too many of our loved ones are living on the street or are incarcerated. NAMI can drive the advocacy that will assure that the difficult to engage, the homeless, and those in the criminal justice system receive the respectful care they deserve. When we help those in most need of care—we help all.

Read Lauren Rettagliata's nomination letter [pdf]