NAMI at the Local, State and National Levels
The NAMI organization operates at the local, state and national levels. Each level of the organization provides support, education, information and referral and advocacy to support the fifteen million Americans who live with serious mental illness today and their families.
Local affiliates and state organizations identify and work on issues most important to their community and state. Individual membership and the extraordinary work of hundreds of thousands of volunteer leaders is the lifeblood of NAMI's local affiliates and state organizations. The national office, under the direction of an elected Board of Directors, provides strategic direction to the entire organization, support to NAMI's state and affiliate members, governs the NAMI corporation, and engages in advocacy, education and leadership development nationally.
Everyone knows the expression, "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts." NAMI's organizational structure is no exception. As an organization, NAMI's success depends on each of the parts of the organization working in concert towards a common goal. That goal is to free people with mental illnesses and their families from stigma and discrimination, and to assure their access to a world-class mental health treatment system to speed their recovery.
Fulfilling NAMI's mission is a shared goal with shared responsibilities. To ensure that our NAMI voice is heard and our support is felt, NAMI's scope is broad, yet focused. It is broad in that we reach hundreds of thousands of people -- family members, consumers, and mental health professionals -- all over the country; school personnel; clergy; influential state leaders; key members of Congress; the Surgeon General; and everyone in between. It is focused in that all NAMI staff and volunteers, regardless of the organizational level at which they work, carry the same message and work toward the same common goals.
NAMI has more than 1,200 local affiliates spanning all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Canada. Local affiliates generally start as a small group of people who come together to provide mutual support and share information. Some support groups have as few as five or six members. As they grow, the group seeks formal affiliation with NAMI and is chartered through the national and state NAMI offices. In addition to sponsoring support groups for consumers and family members, many affiliates take on an advocacy and education agenda. In all cases, members of local affiliates are consumers, family members, professionals, and friends who come together to share and take comfort in the commonality of their experiences and to educate members of their communities about serious brain disorders. In addition to providing support, affiliates also:
provide local information and referral services;
conduct community education by serving on local committees and boards;
interact with local professionals;
work with local media on stories about mental illness
report on local issues and needs to their state organization; and
provide support and encouragement to people with brain disorders and promote their full participation as community members.
It is through the local-affiliate level that most members join NAMI.
Search our affiliate database for your nearest NAMI Affiliate.
NAMI has a state organization in all 50 states as well as in Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. The state organizations operate on a much larger scale than the local affiliates. Among the many tasks they perform, state NAMI organizations:
decide on goals and objectives within their respective states that reflect the needs of all areas of their respective states;
encourage and facilitate outreach, education, and membership development for consumers, families of children and adults, siblings and offspring, and ethnic and multi-culturally diverse populations;
publish a statewide newsletter to educate members, professionals, and the public and to encourage networking among affiliates and grassroots members;
advocate at the state level within the legislative, executive, and judicial branches;
monitor the budgets and activities of state agencies; and
support affiliate growth and development by working with the local affiliates to determine their annual objectives and provide the services and technical assistance necessary to achieve those objectives.
For state-organization contact information and links to many state NAMI Web sites, search our affiliate database.
NAMI at the National Level
At the national level, NAMI has many roles.
The national office, under the direction of an elected Board of Directors, provides strategic direction to the entire organization, support to NAMI's state and affiliate members, governs the NAMI corporation, and engages in advocacy, education and leadership development nationally.
For NAMI state organizations and local affiliates, the National office also serves as a clearinghouse and coordinator of state and local activities, ideas, and products -- to provide resources and technical assistance when needed. In addition to supporting the other tiers of the NAMI organization, the National Office maintains a strong presence on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, by educating legislators and policymakers. NAMI staff work tirelessly on many issues involving serious mental illness, including insurance parity, affordable housing, increases in research appropriations, improved work incentives and income assistance, and access to medications, just to name a few. NAMI's advocacy efforts also extend to federal agencies and the White House.
NAMI has developed a number of unique education programs -- such as Family-to-Family and In Our Own Voice: Living with Mental Illness -- each designed to promote recovery and to educate family members and friends of people with mental illnesses as well as consumers themselves. The NAMI national office also sponsors the Information Helpline, which offers information to more than 70,000 callers each year.
The strength of NAMI is in its grassroots membership, more than 2,000 of whom annually gather for the NAMI National Annual Convention. Recruitment is the way to ensure a more powerful voice and message. NAMI actively reaches out to all people affected by serious mental illnesses, consumers, siblings, spouses, families of young children, people of diverse multicultural and ethnic backgrounds, and mental health professionals. We look to build our strength through diversity, and to fulfill our promise of being "The Nation’s Voice on Mental Illness".