NAMI “Big Tent” Approach Cited, 3 Retirements of Mental Health Heroes, & New Peer Face In Fairfax

Watch four minute video by NAMI CEO Mary Giliberti citing accomplishments

(4-15-19) This video message by NAMI CEO Mary Giliberti showed up in my mailbox recently, although it was released weeks ago.

According to this press release, she attributes:

“the increase in brand awareness to the growing number of celebrity ambassadors who have supported the cause and shared their experiences as well as high-profile partnerships including companies like Kenneth Cole, Lord & Taylor, Boeing, Michelin, Showtime and IHeart Radio.

Giliberti also outlines the work NAMI has done to advocate for better mental health coverage through Medicaid, her involvement with the Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee, and increased calls for more research in collaboration with universities, pharmaceutical companies and government agencies that guide these efforts.

‘Our message on research is this—if we can have a moon shot to cure cancer, then why not a Mars Shot to find new answers for mental illness!’ Giliberti said. ‘We won’t stop until this vision becomes a reality.”

You might recall that in 2017, after a contentious debate, NAMI members elected a board that supported the executive leadership’s “Big Tent” approach, broadening NAMI’s focus beyond its traditional emphasis on serious mental illnesses.

Retirements/A New Face

My good friend, Ron Honberg, has officially retired as NAMI’s Senior Policy Advisor, a post he has held since 1988. Ron was one of the first advocates who reached out to me after my son, Kevin, had his first psychotic break. Later, after I published my book, CRAZY: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness, Ron and I often appeared together on NAMI panels and at mental health conferences. He was a strong supporter of Crisis Intervention Team Training and alternatives to incarceration.

Ron always was fair-minded and often got stuck with calling me after I posted a blog that upset NAMI’s leadership. More importantly, he was a tireless advocate who cared and fought hard for families and their loved ones with mental illnesses. A lawyer by training, Ron filed a number of important briefs on behalf of NAMI. He is someone who I greatly admire and respect. I am certain he will continue to advocate on some level but his many friends will miss his daily service to NAMI. He was one of its best.

In addition,  Kenneth J. Dudek will retire as president of Fountain House in New York City.  I often refer to Ken as “Mr. Clubhouse” because he is responsible for promoting the clubhouse model both nationally and internationally, giving individuals with mental illnesses a strong voice and developing groundbreaking programs that address housing, employment, educational, and health needs.

Since Ken took charge in 1992, Fountain House has been repeatedly honored, the most famous award being the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize. I’ve always admired Ken’s soft-spoken, common sense reasoning. Most of all, I’ve appreciated how he kept true to Fountain House’s origins.

Fountain House traces its roots to the late 1940s at Rockland State Hospital in Orangeburg, New York. Six patients formed a group that met in a hospital “club room” where they shared their stories, read, painted and participated in social functions. Soon after leaving Rockland, they joined together to re-create the respectful and supportive group they had formed in the hospital, meeting on the steps of the New York Public Library. All believed they could offer each other support in life’s challenges and sustain their social community. They hoped that their successful recovery would gradually change society’s perception of people living with mental illness, leading to broader understanding and a reduction in stigma. 

We also will be losing Linda Rosenburg as president and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health in August this year.

I’ve had the pleasure of serving on the board of the Corporation for Supportive Housing with Linda and also speaking and appearing on panels with her. It would be difficult to find someone who is as well-versed about financing mental health services and as shrew politically in Washington D.C. as Linda is.

During her 15 year stint, Linda helped pass the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act and helped create Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics, as well as, introducing Mental Health First Aid to the United States. If you ever attended a NatCON convention, you would easily understand why membership under Linda tripled to more than 2,900 organizations. One convention featured her rapping about mental health.

Linda has been fearless in calling out politicians who either have harmed or are indifferent to mental health. I’ve always admired her no-nonsense style.

As with Ron and Ken, her retirement will be both a huge loss to our cause and to me personally.

Finally, there’s new blood in my local mental health district.

Michael T. Lane has been hired as the new Director of Individual and Family Affairs director in Fairfax/Falls Church.

Before joining our local Community Service Board (CSB), Lane was the Consumer Affairs Coordinator for Mental Health America of Northern California. He is a nationally certified peer specialist, certified psychiatric rehabilitation practitioner, certified WRAP facilitator and Wellness Works trainer. He holds a Masters Degree in Education.

If you live locally, you might recall that when the last top peer left  that job, the CSB decided to save money by not hiring someone to fill his spot. I wrote a blog condemning this decision and eventually those in charge decided to fill the opening left by Tom Mangano.

Welcome Michael Lane.

 

Michael resembles Clark Kent of Superman fame, often getting double takes. So he played it up when he was married in 2012.

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.