I am a multigenerational family member and a Gulf War Vet. I believe that recovery and reliance are not just words but guidance to live by. We are all partners in health and must look at improving quality and access to resources together. Our combined voice is vital to change.
As with many in NAMI, I found the organization in a time of crisis. I was a family member grasping for anything I could find to help our situation. Someone recommended I take a look at this website. I found a F-T-F class and found the tools and support they provided gave us hope and belief in resilience and recovery. During my military service, including my time in the Gulf, I was able to refer my peers to resources in their home states. After I left the Air Force and was later hired as the Colorado ED. I was fortunate to become a F-T-F facilitator, a Colorado Visions Facilitator and offer others a life line. The first F-T-F group I taught was a group at our local VA hospital.
It was a goal of mine as the ED to fully understand each of the programs we offered, and as a result I participated in trainings for CIT, WRAP, Connections, IOOV, and Family Support group facilitation. In my current work as an emergency room mental health clinician I refer families to F-T-F and persons with a mental health support needs to our Connections groups. NAMI is the number one referral I provide.
Currently, at my affiliate, I provide legislative updates and work with the state office’s legislative committee. Colorado like many states has been dealing with the aftermath of many tragedies involving mass shootings. This year Colorado is looking at legislation that may change our crisis system as a whole, modify our emergency commitment laws and limit access to gun ownership. Although we welcome new resources to a severely underfunded system, as advocates we must balance change with the rights of those impacted and potentially stigmatized by the changes and unplanned consequences these laws may also bring.
I like many were hopeful that the Affordable Care Act would open up access to treatment options for many adults who did not have children and often did not qualify for Medicaid benefits. Since the law was upheld and states have begun to expand their Medicaid eligibility I have been able to provide those who needed access to treatment and services to navigators and to local nonprofits for help in completing the applications and applying for benefits. I believe due to well publicized media coverage, we have lost significant ground when it comes to the issue of stigma. No matter how many times we share the statistics that individuals with a mental illness are no more dangerous- the media portrays the opposite. We have become a reactive country, with fear driving out fact, and people again being fearful of disclosing their illness. We again need to push the media to publish the positive stories about recovery and resilience.
As a Board member I will continue to be stigma buster and write letters to the editor, build relationships with journalists, and encourage families to share with their elected officials, and communities to promote recovery. I would love to see every affiliate have the social network resources to reach out and text or tube someone. To have messages affirming hope, recovery, and resources to make a difference to everyone. Finally, we need to “in-reach” to communities we have not connected with previously. I taught F-T-F to a small group of Hasidic Jews four years ago. We still communicate and most recently I was told of how one of the children is doing well. What is even more awesome is that as a community they are now openly talking about mental illness. I have even been invited to present.
I have served on four different boards all focusing on mental health. For all of the boards I have served on, my greatest contribution was networking and coordinating people and resources. Having worked within mental health for over 25 years in a variety of positions (treatment, research, and incarceration), I have great systemic knowledge and have been fortunate to build relationships that have resulted in support for funding, and shared resources. One of my other skills involves fundraising. I began my fundraising career through the Girl Scouts selling cookies and proceeded to learn and teach grant writing, planned large fundraising events such as; galas, auctions, and planned giving campaigns. To date I have written over two million dollars in grant funding requests. When I was the NAMI ED in Colorado, I provided workshops to affiliates on grant writing and often served as a reviewer for them. I continue as a volunteer assisting my affiliate to apply for grant funding. When I made the decision to leave NAMI I decided to focus on and finish my PhD. I realized that I needed to narrow my activities and invest in the areas that I prioritized as really important. As a result, I did not seek re-election to the boards when my terms ended. I decreased my clinical hours in the ER and defined a work life balance. I will graduate this year and now have the time again to dedicate volunteer hours to an organization for which I am passionate. Reaffirming my belief that giving 100% to a single board is more powerful that giving 50% to several boards. In the board world I have learned supporting each other is as vital as participation and hard work holding everyone accountable as an equally contributing member.
My dissertation research focuses on developing tools for improved healthcare decision making. I hope to be able to apply this research to open more doors and “in-reach” to diverse communities who are not aware of the vast resources NAMI has to offer. Further, I believe that the more we can normalize mental illness, the less stigma we will have in our communities and in our country. To meet this goal we need to be working even harder together as one voice reaching out to communities that we have not traditionally sought out as partners. Pursuing positive media coverage focusing on recovery, resiliency and hope.
We have the best family provided educational program around however, we have not always been successful at continuing to engage our program graduates. We can impact this through networks of Family Advocates and Family Systems Navigator’s as they become more widely utilized and available across treatment spectrums (due to changes allowing these services to be billable and creating paid positions). Moving forward we need to connect with these individuals making sure they are aware of our NAMI’s, our NAMI programs, and partnership opportunities. This opens numerous doors of opportunity for growth and diversity throughout our organization. This also opens up opportunities for our families and peers to become a part of the workforce as seasoned veterans. It is due to what others have referred to as my being an out of the box thinker that I have moved concepts forward. As a result my volunteer work and work within the mental health community I have been recognized by our current and former governors, former mayor, the Regis University Alumni Association and at national meetings and conferences. It is my hope that my work and ideas continue benefit NAMI.
I have been a grant writer/fundraiser for over 20 years. To date I have submitted over two million dollars in funding requests. As the former ED of NAMI Colorado, I successfully wrote grants supporting programs, operations, and the creation of an endowment. During my graduate program in Nonprofit Management I was an AmeriCorps fellow and had the opportunity through the Colorado Trust to work with and shadow leadership from foundations and large nonprofits. These individuals gave valuable time, their knowledge, and experience to us. This has been invaluable to me as I have progressed through my career, and I believe a great deal of my fundraising success was directly linked to advice I received then and continue to receive from my mentor relationships. I have bounced ideas on events and strategies that have resulted in successful galas, live and silent auctions, and payroll campaigns.
Establishing an executive director or state president mentorship program could aid in not only fundraising, growth and retention of members. Although not a marketing expert, I am creative and innovative with themes, layout and planning. Having run several nonprofits, I have also learned you can be classy on a budget, communicate in sound bites, and that chicken doesn’t always have to be the dinner entrée. I would hope that as a national board member I could be seen a resource not only at the national level but also at state and affiliate levels to brainstorm ideas that will work wherever they are to move them to where they want to be.
|Job Title or Position:||Emergency Psychiatric Clinician|
|Employer:||St. Anthony’s Hospital|
|NAMI Affiliations:||NAMI Aurora Colorado, Member|
|Other Board Service:||New Horizons, Secretary|
|Public Office:||I am not currently serving any public/elected office|
1) I found NAMI as a family member in crisis F-T-F saved us. The tools and support they provided, gave us hope and belief in resilience and recovery.
2) I believe by advocating for increased access to treatment through the Affordable Care Act, addressing stigma at all levels, creating a workforce of trained Peer and Family Advocates across the spectrum of care, are strong priorities to pursue. By focusing federal and state initiatives that support increased access, funding of services, workforce development, and a no closed doors approach to treatment we will make a difference. Currently, I work on policy development, implementation, and by gubernatorial appointment system transformation. I bring a variety of experience in this area to the board.
3) My greatest contribution to the four boards I have served on is my ability to connect individuals to resources or through fundraising establish them. My nonprofit degree gives me a strong working knowledge of boards and governance. As of this June, I will have no other board obligations and will focus solely on the NAMI Board.
4) My dissertation research focuses on developing tools for improved healthcare decision making. I hope to apply this research to open more doors and “in-reach” to diverse communities who may be unaware of what NAMI offers. My PhD emphasizes working with diverse communities this current body of knowledge will be shared with the board.
5) I have been a grant writer/fundraiser for over 20 years. I have submitted over two million dollars in grants. As a former NAMI ED, I successfully wrote grants supporting programs, operations, and an endowment. In previous roles I have chaired several galas, live and silent auctions, and payroll campaigns. Although not a marketing expert, I am creative and innovative with themes, layout and planning.