I attended NAMI Fox Valley’s Report to the Community with over 100 other community members a few weeks ago. I think it’s safe to say NAMI is exploding with new staff, projects and programs. They are serving up a record number of programs to a record number of participants.
Beth Clay, executive director of NAMI, held up their first annual report in three years and explained, “There was just too much to tell in 2014, we couldn’t afford not to do an annual report.” Here are a few of the highlights of 2014 and a sneak peek at what to expect in 2015.
- NAMI Fox Valley served over 7,000 community members, an increase 500% over the past five years.
- Operating with the understanding that individuals are the experts in their own recovery through peer support, all support groups are facilitated by someone who has walked in the shoes of someone with mental illness.
- It saw many staff changes in 2014, with more still being hired. NAMI will be approaching 20 staff members with the opening of the new Peer Respite Center (Iris Place) in mid-March.
- NAMI offers a variety programs for many different demographics of those struggling with mental illness. Some of the programs include family-to-family support groups; New Hope Peer Specialist training (providing state certification to be a peer specialist in substance abuse/mental illness); peer support groups for men, young adults and parents of school-aged children; and school-based teen support groups. They added new outreach programs NAMI talks (a speakers’ bureau), Ending the Silence and Strike out Stigma. They continue — and will always offer — one-on-one support.
- In 2015, NAMI is adding a women’s group, substance abuse group and two additional teen groups (Hortonville and Neenah). They will add an Appleton Area School District mental health first aid workshop, sib-shops for siblings of children with mental illness, kid-shops for kids with parents with mental illness, a recovery coach for the Outagamie County Mental Health Court and a Hispanic outreach program. And they have plans to expand the pilot program for clergy training.
- A telling story was captured in a partnership project with commercial photography and video business Image Studios. In it, a young woman shared, “NAMI saved my life, because they have connected me to others who were struggling with mental illness just like me.”
- Last and certainly not least is the upcoming opening of Iris Place, a peer-run respite center for individuals with mental illness. One of three in the state to receive a $440,000 grant, it serves as a crisis alternative, providing short-term stays in a home-like environment. Residents are surrounded with peer support. Iris Place will be staffed 24-7-365 by state-certified peer support specialists. The lease has been signed with the St. Bernadette convent as the site. Renovations are under way, with plans to open in mid-March.
So often in our world we hear about the negative effects of mental illness that has gone untreated. NAMI Fox Valley has demonstrated there is hope and provides us with so many positive outcomes from the individuals and families who struggle with mental illness. The Fox Valley is very fortunate to have such a robust resource addressing a community need in partnership with so many other organizations, donors, volunteers and concerned community members. Just one more example of how Fox Valley Giving matters!
Heidi Dusek is a Community Engagement Manager for the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region. For more information or to learn how to get involved in volunteer opportunities or contribute to NAMI’s wish-list, contact Karen Riggers Iverson at [email protected] or (920) 954-1550.