Dear NAMI Friends and Families,
Welcome to our new NAMI Ohio Highlights. Our aim with this e-newsletter is to share stories, updates, and information that encourages those with mental illness and their families to know “they are not alone”. I am excited to share all that is happening at NAMI Ohio and with our Affiliates across the State of Ohio. I have passed the one-year mark as Executive Director and could not be more excited and proud of the growing education, support, and advocacy happening on a daily level.
I am providing recent highlights and updates:
- State Budget – The SFY 2024/2025 budget passed in June provides funding increases in many key areas. The relationships with key stakeholders and elected officials garnered support for our priorities. This occurred with ongoing communication and mee key legislators including 2 successful Statehouse events with partner organizations (Feb. 28) and NAMI Ohio Lobby Day (May 3rd). Key Victories:
- The funding in the Residential State Supplement line at $24,000,000 per year will increase the quality and expansion of mental health group homes. This is an additional $8 million per year to help those with severe and persistent mental illness find a home versus the streets and homeless shelters.
- The General Assembly maintained increases to Prevention and Wellness and Criminal Justice line items. The funding will result in more housing, prevention, and criminal justice services for individuals throughout Ohio.
- The Governor and General Assembly acknowledged the dire workforce shortage in mental health by increasing the community behavioral health Medicaid rates by an additional 10% and allowing additional funds for direct care workers.
- Funding for the local Continuum of Care line item will allow local communities to address the most urgent priorities in their cities, towns, and neighborhoods. This line item represents the largest state general revenue investment in the local mental health services.
- NAMI Ohio Key Priorities:
- Affiliate and Program Engagement and Expansion –
- Erie County was reinvigorated with the leadership of Board Member Julie Hammond; NAMI NW Ohio acquired Ottawa County; Expansion plans are underway for Preble County; Expansion into Clermont County in partnership with NAMI SW Ohio (Working in Hamilton, Warren, Clinton and Clermont); Expansion into Gallia, Jackson, and Meigs Counties in partnership with a core group of volunteers and the local ADAMH Board; Medina County has a contract with Greater Cleveland to provide support and education programs; NAMI Mid-Ohio has expanded into Union County (now serving Delaware, Morrow and Union).
- NAMI Ohio has increased engagement with our Affiliates through monthly Affiliate Calls, Monthly Email Updates to Affiliates, Affiliate Retreats (2 days), and Affiliate Participation in Advocacy Events in Columbus.
- Expand Training Programs – fully developed FY 23 and FY 24 Training Calendar; program leader orientation established, onboarding volunteers with support from NAMI Ohio, including training to leaders and development of volunteer manual.
- Advocacy – NAMI Ohio continues to push efforts for a Person-Centered Mental Health approach. This focuses on key priorities with funding going toward housing, day services (Clubhouse/Peer Recovery Organizations), and care management. In FY 2024, NAMI Ohio will work to see more movement in care coordination for individuals with serious and persistent mental illness.
- Stigma Reduction – marketing campaign focused on the work of 33 Affiliates. NAMI Ohio worked directly with NAMI affiliates to implement locally targeted campaigns in their communities and identify local partners/supporters. The marketing/stigma reduction budget was approximately $320,000. Much of this work focused on targeted populations underserved to ensure messages and materials were delivered effectively. Developed both general and targeted content that can be used and adapted as part of a mixed-media marketing strategy. A key part of this work involved the expansion into online/streaming services. NAMI Ohio incorporated these marketing strategies as part of our organizational advocacy priorities and with the goal to work toward achieving our mission, “to improve the quality of life and ensure dignity and respect for persons with serious mental illness and offer support to their families and close friends.
- Housing – NAMI Ohio’s Board of Directors challenged the staff to expand housing (“one bed at a time”). To that effort, NAMI Ohio hired a full-time Housing Director in January 2023 to lead our efforts to increase the quality in Ohio’s group homes (Adult Care Facilities) and expand long-term housing for those most in need. We will be working with the Ohio Adult Care Facilities Association to host a Housing Conference Oct. 16-18. I can say NAMI Ohio is developing partnerships to advocate for the full continuum of housing: crisis/diversion centers, access to inpatient access beds at the State Hospitals and private institutions quality of private hospitals, Mental Health Rehabilitation Centers (Dani’s Place in Toledo is moving forward with hopes to break ground in the Fall). This will be the 2nd rehabilitation center (the first being Adam-Amanda). NAMI Ohio is working with several other counties as potential partners to develop new facilities.
- Expand diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies and outreach: This will occur via a grant with an Ohio Department of Health to engage specific audiences through stigma reductions via marketing campaigns, workforce fellowships, and targeted education and support groups in the African-American, Appalachia, and Farming communities. NAMI Ohio will continue the statewide focus with the participating communities from “What Works in My Community” to develop our messaging. NAMI affiliates are working with local community centers, churches and other faith-based entities, schools, libraries, NAMI Program participants, etc. to identify messages and services that resonate with diverse audiences. NAMI Ohio will encourage responsiveness from the mental health system for underserved communities by using the results and feedback of marketing campaigns and education programs in the urban communities to gain access to services and resources often unavailable to these communities.
- Client Navigation – fully implemented/integrated into the work at NAMI Ohio. NAMI Ohio’s full-time Client Navigator manages over 300 calls per month. Two-thirds of the contacts are via the phone; 20% via the website/chat feature, followed by the 24-hour answering service. One-third of the calls are from individuals/Self, one-third are from family or friends. 25% of the calls sought direct/crisis and our support groups; about 20% housing, group homes, and residential, followed by peer support, Affiliates, and business related.
Our Mission at NAMI Ohio is to improve the quality of life and ensure dignity and respect for persons with serious mental illness and offer support to their families and loved ones. We do this through our education, support, and advocacy at no financial cost to individuals and families. This mission and the services at NAMI are needed now, more than ever. I never heard anyone say, I want to have mental illness. But being the Director of NAMI Ohio, I often hear of the pain and neglect so many living with mental illness and their families feel. Today, let us be proud that we have made the commitment to be a voice and we will not be drowned out. When we look back, it will be NAMI that pushes the changes, the ones that did not just talk about the crisis but demanded action. In 2020 I was chosen to be the next leader at NAMI Ohio, I cannot adequately express how during my short tenure at NAMI has impacted my view of the world and how we treat those most in need. The people I’ve met – most of them living with mental illness or family members – always have a common thread. They just want help through the darkest times of these illnesses and NAMI gives them hope. I believe NAMI is the light, I believe NAMI NOW, MORE THAN EVER!
Sincerely, Luke Russell