Helpline: 1-800-686-2646 or text NAMI to 741741 1225 Dublin Road, Suite 210, Columbus OH 43215
Help is just a call or click away

Help is just a call or click away

Written By: Alan Johnson, NAMI Ohio

The NAMI Ohio Helpline received 3,193 contacts in calendar year 2023. This is just the second year since the Helpline was upgraded in 2022 under the direction of NAMI Ohio of Client Navigator Danielle Smart, a trained and experienced social worker with master’s and bachelor’s degrees from The Ohio State University.

The Helpline can be accessed toll-free by phone at 800 286-2646 or individuals can utilize the live chat feature available on Facebook and at Calls and messages are answered live during business hours and transferred to an answering service during off-hours for follow-up the next day.

Of the 3,193 contacts to the Helpline last year, 1,971 were by telephone, 664 were through the NAMI Ohio website, and 130 through email. 323 after-hours calls were received.

Nearly half the callers contacted the Helpline about themselves, although many called with concerns about a child, spouse, parent or friend. Some callers were referred to NAMI by other organizations.

Danielle said, as in the past, the prime reason people called was for direct mental health services, followed by crisis services, multiple needs, housing, legal issues, client’s rights, education, education and employment concerns.

While Danielle is the main point of contact as Client Navigator, she works with NAMI staff members and a statewide network of affiliates who are committed to removing barriers to care by identifying critical resources for individuals and families, assessing needs of callers to NAMI Ohio’s crisis line, and doing follow-ups to see that needed help is being received from local providers and support services.

Helpline callers can provide as much or as little information as they feel comfortable giving. The length of the call depends on the needs of the caller.

“Sometimes they just need to talk,” Danielle said previously. “Some of the toughest calls are talking to a parent whose child is going through a mental health crisis. I spend as much time as I need to.”

Calls came from all over the state, as well as outside Ohio. The top counties in terms of contacts were Franklin (523), Cuyahoga (136), Montgomery (61), Hamilton (49), and Delaware (39)

Volunteer Info

How to get involved as a volunteer

Find your local affiliate by going online to see a map and contact information for NAMI Ohio affiliates

You will see contact information by following their websites. Specific volunteer opportunities will be answered by the local affiliate. All are looking for program leaders.

NAMI has many different programs and courses that need participants, volunteers and in some cases leaders. Here are a few:

NAMI Basics is for parents and other family caregivers of children and adolescents who have either been diagnosed with a mental health condition or who are experiencing symptoms but have not yet been diagnosed.

NAMI Family-to-Family is a class for families, partners and friends of individuals with mental illness. The course is designed to facilitate a better understanding of mental illness, increase coping skills and empower participants to become advocates for their family members.

NAMI Homefront is a class for families, partners and friends of military service members and veterans experiencing a mental health challenge. The course is designed specifically to help these families understand those challenges and improve the ability of participants to support their service member or veteran.

NAMI Peer-to-Peer is a recovery education course open to anyone experiencing a mental health challenge. The course is designed to encourage growth, healing and recovery among participants.

NAMI Ending the Silence is a presentation designed for middle and high school students, school staff, and parents or guardians of middle or high school aged youth. Audiences learn about the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions, how to recognize the early warning signs and the importance of acknowledging warning signs.

NAMI Family Support Group is a weekly or monthly support group for family members, partners and friends of individuals living with a mental illness.

Parent Advocacy Connection (PAC) is a grassroots organization of trained parent advocates who reflect the cultural and ethnic make-up of the families they serve.  When children require services from multiple sources, it can be difficult for parents to navigate various service systems. Contact Tamisha McKenzie at

YouthMOVE Ohio is a vibrant youth-led organization devoted to improving services and systems to support youth inclusion, mental wellness, positive supports, and healthy transition.





Open Affiliate Positions

Staff Positions

NAMI Athens is looking for someone to lead the affiliate into the next chapter. This would be a part-time Director to run events, coordinate mental health education, partner with NAMI Ohio and NAMI National as well as local organizations and Ohio University in Athens, and in time, broaden our reach & advocacy.

NAMI Geauga is seeking an Executive Director

NAMI Four County is seeking an Education Coordinator.

NAMI of Southern Ohio needs to train volunteers for all available NAMI education and support groups. The organization will hire on a contract basis so trainers will be paid at the completion of the sessions they have presented. We are going to try this in lieu of hiring permanent staff. We are looking for individuals to work in five of our counties: Ross, Pickaway, Pike, Fayette and Highland.


Meet the President

NAMI Ohio President Lovell Custard brings broad professional social service and intimate personal mental health experience to the job of steering the state’s largest mental head advocacy organization.

Lovell, a native of Cleveland’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood, became president earlier this year, replacing Joyce Campbell, a Fairfield Municipal Court Judge and president of the national NAMI organization. Judge Campbell remains on the state board.

Lovell, 57, is President and Chief Executive Officer of Murtis Taylor Human Services System, a large Cuyahoga County organization providing behavioral health, addiction, youth, family, residential and senior services at 12 locations to more than 12,000 people.

Lovell and his wife, Nancy, who have been married for 25 years, live in Cleveland.

Lovell said assuring Ohioans with mental illness receive all services, including housing, food, and basic human needs, “is the foundation for recovery and treatment. You can provide all the case management, therapy, and medication, but if a person doesn’t have a safe place to lay their head at night, food and clothing, it’s not going to work.”

Murtis Taylor recognizes the most basic human need for food by providing meals for people who come for services, in part because mental health medications require the person to eat when taking them.

Services for the mentally ill beyond treatment, especially housing, will be a focus during his tenure as president, Lovell said. He noted that NAMI Ohio may get involved directly in providing housing instead of solely supporting housing programs and projects as in the past.

“We’ve been doing a lot housing,” he said, “but it comes to a point where we’re just not moving fast enough.” Compared to the need, he said, “it’s still only a drop in the bucket.”

NAMI Ohio Executive Director Luke Russell said, “Lovell is not just an advocate but a veteran of providing services and supports. He knows people and families can only recover if they have community support and housing with treatment being provided.”

Russell said Lovell is “on the frontlines in the community and he sees the connection between physical health and needs as it relates to mental health. He is passionate about serving the whole person.”

NAMI Ohio advocates for housing as part of person-centered mental health,” Russell said. “People need safety, security, and community as part of their recovery journey. It is naive to believe someone can thrive with treatment alone, we have to start prioritizing housing, day services, and care coordination.”

Lovell was one of three children born to Kenneth and Donna Custard. One of his two sisters, Donna Johnson, suffered from severe and persistent mental illness and died in 2008 at the age of 46.

“I grew up in a family that didn’t know a lot about mental illness and treatment,” Lovell said. He was working in business management, having earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees, he returned to college to get a second bachelor’s in social work, in part due to the influence of his sister’s illness.

Lovell’s reached out to NAMI of Greater Cleveland seeking information and help for his sister. The organization eventually asked him to serve on the board.

“It was something I believed in, and I was interested in learning more about mental health.”

Lovell joined the NAMI Ohio Board in 2008, became second vice president in 2018, first vice president in 2020, and president on July 1, 2023.

His experience prior to Murtis Taylor includes working at the Center for Families and Children directing Project Safe Harbor, managing operations of the Central District of the YMCA of Greater Cleveland, and serving as head of Marketing and Development of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland.

He also serves on several other boards and was appointed by Gov. Mike DeWine in 2022 as Expert Advisor to the OneOhio Recovery Foundation.

Message from the Director

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:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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