Moultrie Observer

Local News

June 8, 2012

Inaugural NAMI Nights draws 40

MOULTRIE — Despite bad weather, more than 40 people showed at the first NAMI Nights Colquitt County mental health informational session this week. NAMI Nights is just another in the community’s “octopus” approach to advocate for persons living with mental illness and their families, said Lynn Wilson, chairman of University of Georgia Archway-Healthy Colquitt Coalition Mental Health Subcommittee.

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) is a national grassroots organization. It’s the intent of the mental health subcommittee to establish a local NAMI chapter to serve as a source of information and support not only to individuals and families affected by mental illness but also the community in which they live.

“You don’t know what no one has told you,” NAMI spokesperson Pat Strode told the crowd gathered within the First Methodist Church social hall as she relayed her own struggle as a parent of a mentally ill adult child.

“Mental illness kicked in our door and invaded our home,” she said.

She sank along with her daughter into despair — their world crumbling around them, she said. As luck would have it, someone reached out to her and invited her to a NAMI meeting. She went. She listened to the stories of other parents with children coping — or not coping — with chronic mental illness. There they discussed medications and side effects, learned how to navigate and encourage loved ones through darker times, learned about advocacy and how it can transform a community. It began to transform Strode as well. NAMI became her lifeline.

“There’s a scripture that says people perish for lack of knowledge, and we can witness that all over Georgia. You can witness that right here in your own community. NAMI helps stop that suffering by educating people,” Strode said.

Also standing to speak was Alan White, vice president of the NAMI Albany chapter. White said currently the Albany chapter offers support groups and classes that several Colquitt County residents already attend regularly. After the local chapter is chartered, NAMI Nights Colquitt County will offer those support services as well to reach more families. Volunteers will be needed to be trained as support group facilitators, Wilson said. In the meantime, NAMI Nights Colquitt County will meet each Tuesday evening of the month at First Methodist Church.

“You have some great stuff going here. Don’t lose the momentum,” he said. “… From what my experience has been in Albany, there’s never been a shortage of money per se to make the NAMI program go. It’s always been you need more people to step forward, to be active whether it’s to serve as treasurer, do mailings, whatever.”

To get a family-to-family course started in Colquitt County, Wilson said she needs at least 15 people to sign up to attend a two-and-a-half hour class per week for 12 weeks. NAMI Basics is another class to be offered for parents or guardians of a child or an adolescent living with mental illness. The class applies to professionals working with these children, such as social workers, school social workers, or domestic abuse shelter workers. These classes will run two-and-a-half hours per week for six weeks.

In the mere months since the formation of the subcommittee, the group has achieved significant strides, include generating support to establish accountability courts. These courts are also known as “mental health courts” and “drug courts,” where offenders might qualify to undergo treatment under probation-like supervision as an alternative to incarceration. Also, the mental health subcommittee has progressed in its effort to reopen a local public mental health clinic. Colquitt County lost its facility in 2009. The next, critical step to that end is community financial support, said subcommittee member Ben Marion of Turning Point.

The group has brought in crisis intervention training, teaching first responders how to deal with persons afflicted with mental issues, including severe disorders such as schizophrenia and even dementia, Alzheimer’s, autism, intellectual disability, and post traumatic stress. So far, two locals have been trained to be trainers of crisis intervention. Another Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) course is scheduled in August.

Just this week, University of Georgia Archway Professional Emily Watson secured funding through the Georgia Public Health Training Center to bring a Mental Health First Aid class to Moultrie to be offered likely in late July. Twenty people — school nurses, school and state social workers, and the like — will be able to receive this training at no cost.

 “I have not yet, and this committee has not yet had a door slammed in our face. This community knows the need. The community is opening their hearts, and my message now that we have our goals set and infrastructure as far as planning is concerned — my message is going to include, ‘Yeah, we do need some money in order to get this clinic back because of the budget shortfall,’” Wilson said.

She and others plan to drum up financial support for the effort, she said.

“We can spend our money proactively and raise the level of health and well-being of this entire community, or we can spend our money reactively with the sheriff driving them — like they did my son — to Thomasville off their meds. It’s family crises, health issues, legal issues, destroying families and undermining the very health of this community,” she said.

The next NAMI Nights Colquitt County information session is scheduled July 3 and will feature Debbie Manganaro with Assertive Community Treatment discussing taking mental health services into the community.

For more information, go online at www.namiga.org or contact Lynn Wilson at (229) 891-1725 or lynnbw45@gmail.com. All contact is confidential.

 

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