State Consumer Participation and Leadership Committee Meets to Establish NAMI Consumer Membership Goals

May 17, 2007
NAMI Santa Clara Newsletter

Sacramento, Calif. – Under the chairmanship of Karen Henry, J. D., who serves as the Chair of Government Affairs Committee for NAMI California, led a representative group of consumer advocates in what was to be an enthusiastic meeting. The purpose, to develop strategies to improve dramatically, NAMI Consumer participation in specific areas concern. Consumer representatives were as follows; Paul Cumming, Ann Cummings, Juan De Anda, Karen H. Henry, Rosemary Milbraith, Keris Myrick, Michael Rogan, and Tom Schwertscharf.                   

The proposed goals were: 1) increase the number of consumer members; 2) increase consumer participation in affiliate and state NAMI and 3) emphasize consumer leadership. Ideas were shared. How have other affiliates met these challenges?

Membership activity could be directed toward underserved consumers and any membership strategies should include representative numbers from the communities ethnic demographics. In Sonoma County, Rosemary Milbraith suggested that consumer members actively reach out to new mental health hospital outpatients and those who are newly released from the jails. Sonoma reported gaining long term members by reaching out to group homes which serve transitional age youth. Juan De Anda, a member of the NAMI National Veterans Council stated consumer membership could increase significantly by reaching out to our veteran populations and minority populations.

Consumer participation was discussed at length. Marcy Larkin with NAMI California discussed recognition of consumer participants by awarding affiliates who promote consumer involvement. Paul Cumming from San Diego reviewed the opportunities for consumers to influence political issues. Consumers can use the Network of Care Web site to review local and state mental heath legislation and connect with other consumers across the country who are involved in consumer advocacy. Opportunities exist within State consumer forums, MHSA committees, State Office of Accountability, Disability Department expert pools and SAMSA. The need was obvious that this is the time for consumers to rise up and take active rolls in shaping the new mental health recovery model.

Affiliates need to emphasize consumer leadership through board and committee leadership appointments. A negligible few consumers serve on NAMI affiliate boards.

The state and national NAMI conventions offer consumer leadership forums. It would be advantageous to have affiliate or regional consumer advocacy and leadership workshops. A new section within the state newsletter, a Consumers Corner, will be devoted to consumer ideas and innovations. It would be useful for our newsletter to highlight consumers in a similar way.

The new paradigm in mental health will move toward the recovery approach. This will be a consumer driven movement where the victims of the delivery system will become decision makers of the near future. The benefits of participation are grounded in individual recovery and changing the way the system is now being determined by heath care providers and activist networks which do not reflect the best interests of our consumer membership.