Press Releases

Planned Resignation Of Laurie Flynn and Search for New Executive Director

Statement by Jacqueline L. Shannon President, Board of Directors The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI)

Oct 17 2000

After 16 years of exemplary service to people with severe mental illnesses and their families, Laurie Flynn has announced to the NAMI board that she intends to resign as NAMI's executive director, effective December 31, 2000.

With profound regret and appreciation for her significant contributions to our movement, the board has accepted Laurie's desire to focus her considerable talents elsewhere and is establishing a search committee for a new executive director.

When Laurie first arrived as executive director, NAMI was a small group of grassroots advocates scattered throughout the country, virtually unknown on Capitol Hill and policy circles. With fewer than 500 affiliates and a national professional staff of only four, NAMI found in Laurie the skills to grow the organization and effectively articulate the vision of its founders. Anyone who has ever been in an auditorium when Laurie has taken the podium knows the keen intelligence and passion she has given to the nation's voice on mental illness. Today, with more than 210,000 members, 1200 affiliates and a national staff of more than 60 persons, NAMI has fulfilled the wisdom of those who selected Laurie to lead us.

Laurie Flynn helped to inspire and lead the movement that has changed the way America thinks and talks about people with mental illnesses. Under her stewardship, NAMI has been steadfast in pursuing a public policy and program agenda that has improved immeasurably the lives of people with biological brain disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, clinical depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and severe anxiety disorders.

During Laurie's Tenure:

  • Congress proclaimed the 1990's as the "Decade of the Brain."
  • The White House Conference on Mental Health was convened and the first Surgeon General's Report on Mental Health issued, reflecting NAMI's own core messages.
  • Funding for the research on severe mental illnesses at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) increased dramatically.
  • NIMH became an institute of the National Institute of Health; thereby assuming equal footing with other institutes devoted to medical research.
  • The NAMI toll-free HelpLine was established to respond to the thousands of inquires received from people with mental illnesses and their families. Today, the HelpLine receives 80,000 calls per year.
  • The federal Mental Health Parity Act of 1996 was enacted. Legislation requiring equity in mental illness health insurance benefits also was enacted in 32 states.
  • NAMI established the exemplary family education program, "Family to Family," a signature program currently active in 43 states.
  • NAMI has led national promotion and expansion of the Program of Assertive Community Treatment (PACT) as the evidence-based, community-based model of care for people with severe and persistent mental illness
  • NAMI's award-winning Website is bringing the best of NAMI's resources directly to more than 800,000 visitors each month.
  • NAMI played a key role in ensuring that people with mental illnesses would be covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Federal Fair Housing Act.
  • NAMI played a significant role in achieving passage of the Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999 eliminating significant barriers to work in the Federal SSDI and SSI programs.
  • NAMI raised the importance of protecting consumers who participate in clinical research trials. NAMI created education programs for consumers who wish to participate in clinical trials and for others who wish to serve on Internal Review Boards.
  • Three NAMI reports rating state mental health systems led to significant reforms in state funded mental health services for people with mental illnesses.
  • NAMI's 1992 "Criminalizing the Seriously Mentally Ill" report elevated the tragedy of the use of jails and prisons as "psychiatric treatment facilities" to the forefront of public attention.
  • NAMI's 1997 report, "Stand and Deliver", gave a failing grade to existing managed behavioral healthcare systems and set a standard for advocates to use in evaluating the performance of these systems.
  • NAMI's 1997 report, "Legacy of Failure," revealed the pervasive inability of the federal-state vocational rehabilitation system to serve people with mental illnesses and contributed to passage of the Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999.
  • NAMI's "Families on the Brink" report brought into focus in 1999 the harsh realities of childhood mental illness and the tragedy of families forced to relinquish custody of their children to obtain necessary treatment.
  • NAMI's "Cries of Anguish" reports and leadership led to Congressional passages just three weeks ago of national standards to restrict the use of restraints and seclusion in psychiatric facilities.

Laurie's contributions to NAMI and the field of mental health care reform over the years have been truly remarkable. I know that all NAMI members and friends will join me in thanking her for her extraordinary service and wishing her great success in future endeavors.