"This was a first-ever event for us," said Lynne Saunders, director, Family-to-Family technical assistance. "We wanted our Family-to-Family program directors to have fun, learn a lot and know they are appreciated." The event brought in program leaders from virtually every state where the 12-week, free, peer education course for family members of persons with serious mental disorders is taught.
"We had such a wonderful time," said Joyce Burland, Ph.D., author of the nationally acclaimed family empowering program and director of NAMI education, training and peer support center. "Everyone who participated, including our sponsors, were just like family. We worked hard, learned a lot together, and shared lots of good ideas."
Highlights of the event included a keynote address from NAMI Executive Director Rick Birkel, Ph.D., sharing the new Campaign for the Mind of America with a special message of appreciation for NAMI’s "unsung heroes" who give so much to help so many. Presentations from John Bardi, Bristol-Meyers Squibb Company on effective marketing, "To Market To Market;" and NAMI South Carolina Executive Director Dave Almeida on program management "Turning Passion into Progress;" were also very well received. "Our evals were off the charts," said Saunders concerning attendees’ review of the event.
Prior to the event, Dr. Burland interviewed all state program directors to assemble an emerging best practices café of resources that were on display throughout the conference. Each state was carefully profiled. "We emphasized strengths," said Saunders. "Joyce asked each of them to share their primary strengths and best practices. We distributed their profiles in a binder so they could learn about each other and then we gave them an opportunity to make that connection personally."
Workshops included Models of Communication and Networking Building, Minority and Ethnic Outreach, and Best Practices in Developing and Managing our Teachers.
Sponsors of the event through unrestricted educational grants were Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc. (OAP) and Bristol-Myers Squibb Company (BMS).
Directors had an opportunity to view the new recruitment tool, a 10-minute video called "Tribute," which is a depiction of family members telling their stories of what Family-to-Family meant to them, "from their own hearts," said Saunders. These videos, along with other educational products, were offered free of charge in whatever quantity was needed to each state from BMS program sponsors.