NAMI Leader Keeps Focus On Serious Mental Illnesses and So Does Assistant Secretary

12-14-17) Mary Giliberti was on fire!

The Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and I spoke at a press conference earlier today held in Washington to unveil a national plan to reform our federal mental health care system. (I’ll write more about the plan later.)

For those of you who don’t want to watch the entire news conference posted above, Mary’s remarks begin at the 30 minute mark and end at about minute 38, when I start my remarks. (I was asked, as always, to share my son’s story so it might be familiar territory to most of you.)

It was what happened afterwards that really had me cheering. Off camera, a discussion was taking place about how wide of a net the newly created Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee should cast. There was talk about providing services for groups other than the seriously mentally ill. And it was Giliberti who immediately said, “No!”  The focus of the committee had to be on SMIs and serious emotional disturbances.

Lately, NAMI has been accused of not paying enough attention to SMIs.  Her firm reaction reminded me of a story that she told me months ago.

In 2009, there was an argument about what cover to put on the Grading the States report. Some argued that the face of recovery should be on that grim study. Someone smiling. Although Giliberti was not director, she argued in favor of a photograph of a homeless woman. When Giliberti was hired to become director, she had that photograph hung directly outside her office inside NAMI’s headquarters. She did that to remind herself and everyone who came to see her where NAMI’s focus should be.

This has been a busy week in mental health.

Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz testified before Congress on Wednesday and I spent time in Richmond on a committee that will advise the new governor about mental health in Virginia. It’s hard for me to keep up — and also write books.

I am posting this tonight because I want to praise both Giliberti and Dr. McCance-Katz . I left today’s press conference and day long meetings with renewed hope. Why? Because our new Assistant Secretary for Mental Illness and Substance Abuse is working diligently to pull federal agencies together and keep the focus on serious mental illnesses – and so is Giliberti.

Bravo to both!

Written testimony of Dr. McCance-Katz before U.S. Senate on Wednesday.

Watch the entire Senate hearing here.


About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.