Thursday, May 21, 2015

People Not Prisons: Utahns Need to Speak UpFor Our Neighbors Behind Bars

NAMI Utah hosted a press conference today to address the rhetoric surrounding prison relocation. NAMI Utah is part of People Not Prisons, a loose coalition of advocacy groups working on behalf of people with a mental health condition, people recovering from substance use disorders, and individuals trapped in Utah’s criminal justice system.


People Not Prisons (PNP) is concerned with ongoing rhetoric about correctional facilities and the people within them. We believe that the public and its elected officials should be focused on improving conditions, programs and policies that impact the human beings in our criminal justice system – rather than arguing about the location of the new prison.
 “About 95% of the people who are currently in Utah state prison beds will be released back into their communities.” Says ACLU of Utah Public Policy Advocate Anna Brower. “For our own safety, we need correctional facilities that work”.


The People Not Prisons Coalition includes:
ACLU Utah
NAMI Utah
Utah Support Advocates for Recovery Awareness (USARA)
Utah Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (UAATP)
Odyssey House
First Step House
Utah AFL-CIO
Disability Law Center
Utah Prison Support
New Roads Behavioral Health
Utah Prisoner Advocate Network (UPAN)
The Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City
Utah Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (UAATP)



Friday, April 10, 2015

No Care for Us

ACCESS DENIED

Non-Medicaid Expansion States Block Uninsured People with Serious Mental Illness from Receiving Affordable, Needed Treatments
Prepared by Joel E. Miller, James K. Finley, Rebecca Gibson and Whitney Meyerhoeffer

A new groundbreaking study from the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) shows that nearly 570,000 people diagnosed with a serious mental health condition, would have received affordable, needed treatments, but were denied access to services because several states refused to participate in the new Medicaid Expansion Program. The federal government would have paid 100 percent of the treatment costs; the monies were already included in the federal budget. The comprehensive study also highlights that 458,000 fewer people would have avoided a depressive disorder mainly by securing health insurance through the Medicaid Expansion Program.

The study, entitled “Access Denied: Non-Medicaid Expansion States Blocked Uninsured People with Serious Mental Illness from Receiving Affordable, Needed Treatments” shows that on a state-by-state basis, thousands of uninsured people who had been diagnosed with a serious mental health condition on January 1, 2014, and residing in the 24 states that did not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, were denied affordable, needed care throughout the year.

Utah has 15,312 uninsured people ages 18-64 with a serious mental health disorder who were projected to access services under Medicaid expansion. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

2015 Utah Legislative Review



2015 Utah Legislative Review

Healthy Utah/Medicaid expansion
As you are aware by now, Healthy Utah (Utah’s version of Medicaid expansion) passed the Senate but it failed in the House. On the last day of the legislative session, a special committee was created, made up of Governor Herbert, Lt. Governor Cox, Senate President Niederhauser, Speaker Hughes, Senator Shiozawa, and Representative Dunnigan. They studied the Medicaid expansion plan over the coming months and will have an agreed upon solution by July 31st with a special session to happen shortly after. So stay tuned!

Criminal Justice Reform
The Criminal Justice Reform legislation was an outcome of the policy recommendations of the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (CCJJ). House Bill 348 is a massive piece of legislation with positive implications for the reform of the criminal justice system. There are a number of improvements regarding the treatment of inmates that have a mental illness and alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders with a mental health condition and/or substance use disorders. The bill also requires the Department of Corrections and the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health to track performance and outcomes, establish standards for mental health and substance abuse treatment, and analyze specified programs, among other administrative requirements. Almost $12 million was allocated to help HB348’s policy changes. But the most important change that still needs to happen is to expand Medicaid in Utah for proper mental health and substance use disorder treatment.

Suicide Prevention Legislation
House Bill 209 mandates that certain behavioral health professionals must complete a minimum of two hours of suicide prevention training in order to obtain or renew a license. This does not apply to all behavioral health professionals or physicians.
House Bill 364 provides additional funding for suicide prevention and anti-bullying programs to the Utah State Board of Education and to the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health.

School Safety & Crisis Line
Senate Bill 175 will improve behavioral health services in our state. This bill provides funding for a statewide crisis text line service focused at youth who face bullying, abuse, and/or suicidal thoughts. Also, it will handle tips concerning threats of violence or criminal activities related to schools.

We recommend reading the Disability Law Center legislative wrap-up and ACLU Utah’s blog entries on Criminal Justice Reform.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness

Several years ago when I was dealing with two children who had mental health issues and doing a lot of “Why me?” “Why us?” and “Why THEM?” thinking, I heard of an organization called NAMI. It sounded intriguing, so I did a little investigating and heard about a conference they were having that focused on providing families and individuals with information on how to successfully handle the myriad of challenges that arise whenever you’re dealing with mental illness.
I signed up immediately.

The conference began with various speakers, which I figured I’d try to stay awake through until we got to the really interesting stuff, which was the WORKSHOPS. Then the keynote speaker started talking, and I was spellbound. Seriously. There was definitely some magic dust floating around.

The speaker’s name was Pete Earley, and even though I was impressed by the fact that he was an important journalist and had been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for his book, Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness, I was more impressed that he was a parent just like me – a parent who had experienced his own frustration, confusion, sadness, anger, and yes, hopefulness – when it came to trying to find help for his child. Pete Earley’s reputation, resources and contacts may have been different than mine, but the obstacles we faced were the same.
I had the pleasure of being able to speak briefly with Mr. Earley after his presentation. He was off to catch a plane to who knows where (someplace exotic, I’m sure), but for that short period of time we were just two parents who understood each other, and who wished the world were just a little bit different for our children.


I encourage you to come experience the magic for yourself. An Evening with Pete Earley  

Wendy Fayles
Family Mentor
NAMI Utah 






Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Lisa's Reason for Walking

Lisa e-mailed us today to tell us that she'll be walking on Saturday. Here's what she had to say:

My Name is Lisa. I’m participating in the NAMI 2014 walk in Salt Lake City UT. I’m doing this walk in honor of myself. I have Bipolar. I take a mood stabilizer everyday to help me with the highs and lows of this disorder. It’s amazing just how much of my life Bipolar effects. I’m still the amazing woman I've always been. A caring mother, sister, daughter and friend. But I have my manic days and I have my depressed days. Some days I want to be everywhere doing everything and some days I want to sit alone in my room all day. I do talk speak publicly about Bipolar. I’m not ashamed to have this disorder. Why should we be? If anything we are true warriors of hope and life and love. To live each day sometimes not knowing when the feeling ….the high or the low is going to come back because you know it always does. I always do my best to keep a positive attitude about my disorder. I take great pride in being able to participate in somethi
ng as big as reaching out and helping others that live/suffer from a mental illness.

Join us this Saturday for the NAMIWalk! Registration is free: www.namiwalks.org/utah

Thursday, April 3, 2014

See You Later

Good-byes seem so finite. So we're saying "See you later" to our dear friend, NAMI advocate, amazing mother, incredible co-worker and the sunshine in our lives.

Sarah Gilbertson has been working at NAMI Utah for the past 3 years now and she has brought so much joy and happiness to our office. Her jovial voice can be heard across the hall and her laughter can be heard across the street! We had a little "See You Later" party for her the other day and we all went around the room sharing memories of Sarah. It probably sounded like a circus in that boardroom from all the laughing and then subsequent crying.

Sarah is amazing, if you don't know her she has conducted our Provider Education training, click HERE for more details, and coordinated all of our Teacher and Facilitator trainings. She has built incredible relationships with community partners, providers, panelists and so many others who hold a special place for her in their hearts.

While Sarah is so upbeat, positive and always smiling, she and her beautiful children have been dealing with their own struggles with mental illness. You can read her story, in her own words, on her blog HERE.She is leaving NAMI to take care of her beautiful children full-time.

Even when her days start out rough with her kids, she comes around to everyone's office, offering them a hello or if they're lucky, like me, a hug. She is the epitome of a NAMI advocate and we have been so blessed by her presence here.

Luckily for us, she will remain a huge part of our lives here at NAMI and has even decided to help with the NAMIWalk this year. We couldn't be more grateful for her dedication to this cause! 

When I think of Sarah, I think of this quote to the left from Story People. It says, "Anyone can slay a dragon, he told me, but try waking up every morning and loving the world all over again. That's what takes a real hero." Sarah is our real hero. She wakes up every morning and loves the world all over again! And we love her right back! 

So Sarah, we aren't saying good-bye, no way! We are simply saying, "See you later!"

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What Happens in Class, Stays in Class

With the next round of NAMI Utah’s class for teens, Progression, coming up, you may ask yourself – “why should I sign up? Why should I go if my parents aren’t dragging me?” And to that, I say, “Dude, you are missing out!” Progression is a great class where you can learn about dealing with your problems instead of just letting them drag you through life, all while being taught by teachers who have been there, and been there recently. No detention or quizzes here; just real talk from people who have dealt with what you’re dealing with, and people who are honest, open, and unashamed of their experiences. These teachers will give you
the tools to be proactive about your illness instead of just letting it rule your life. Oh, and did I mention we have an opportunity for you to meet other people your age that are dealing with the same problems? There is no judgment in Progression, and everything you tell the class is confidential. I call it “The Vegas Rule” – what’s said in class, stays in class. What could be better than that?

I haven’t yet mentioned my personal favorite part of Progression – they have been coined “Emotional First-Aid Kits” but I personally thought the name could use a change, so every class gets to call it what they want. What is an “Emotional First-Aid Kit”, you might be asking? These Kits are small boxes that you decorate with supplies we provide, and fill with things that make you feel better when you’re down. Love listening to some smooth R&B jams to chill you out? Pop that iPod in the box! Is a bubble bath more your speed? Tuck a few bottles away in the box! Snuggly stuffed animal from your younger days your go-to? Put that little critter in his new home! These Kits, like Progression, are all about you – how your mind works, how to cope, how to communicate, how to just be you. And you, you will find out, are pretty darn rad – illness or not.

To sign up for Progression, call NAMI Utah at (801) 323-9900. Progression, like all of our classes and support groups, is totally FREE! (And totally awesome, I might add.)

Erin is a Whole Health Care Manager and Mentor at NAMI Utah and is a teacher, teacher trainer, and state trainer for Progression, having taught nearly a dozen classes and trained many people both in Utah and Minnesota in the Progression program. She also likes to think she is pretty cool – most days!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Brian Daniel Wynn 1975-2012

A message from Dan and Alice Wynn, who gathered donations for NAMI Utah from friends and family in honor of their son, Brian Daniel Wynn:

With rising recognition and emphasis being placed on mental illness and many related tragedies taking place across our country every day, we have collected donations for NAMI in memory of our son, Brian Daniel Wynn, who passed away unexpectedly on February 13, 2012 due to complications arising from mental illness and addiction. Brian, a very kind and soft spoken spirit, often displayed a sincere concern for other who were struggling or in need. However, in the end, he could not overcome his own trial and demons and was unable to obtain the treatment he needed in a timely manner, which may have saved his life. 

Thank you for your dedication to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. 
Sincerely, 
Dan and Alice Wynn




Dan and Alice, thank you for your donation and most importantly, thank you for your willingness to raise awareness of mental health issues and suicide. We have no doubt that Brian would be proud of the work you are doing! Stay strong, continue to shed light on these issues and take care of yourselves and each other. Remember that you are not alone!
Thank you so much,
NAMI Utah

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Running Down Stigma: Michael's Story

In 2008 Michael Runningwolf was diagnosed with a severe mental illness known as Paranoid Schizophrenia. Although this illness has made life difficult for Michael, he says the most crippling of all things was the stigma attached to his illness. Michael now runs races to help erase the stigma of mental illness and raises funds for mental health organizations. Michael will be running the Santa Barbara International Marathon on November 9, 2013 in support of NAMI Utah. Check out his website by clicking HERE.

We had the opportunity to ask Michael a few questions. Here's what he had to say:

1.) Where did you seek help when you first received a diagnosis? 

When I first received my diagnosis, I was told that I needed to go to a psychiatric hospital so I could get the proper care I needed. I was not educated about mental illness at that time and I had no idea where to reach out for help. At the same time, most of the people in my life were distancing themselves from me and I felt very alone and scared. I found a local NAMI office in Boise Idaho and they helped me with information but I was struggling and it wasn’t long before I found myself hospitalized again and then I found myself incarcerated into the jails psychiatric unit.

2.) Tell us about your first involvement with NAMI.

The first time I found NAMI was in Idaho, but the first time I really found NAMI was when I moved to Phoenix Arizona. I went to visit them and found a home, they let me volunteer there and I found a family that supported me any way they could. I started to volunteer about two hours a week, and before I knew it I was volunteering forty hours a week before and more because I believed in what NAMI was doing and also it felt wonderful to get up every morning and have someplace to go and to know I was helping others. They saved my life, they helped me find my purpose and meaning and they did it without ever asking who my insurance provider was or what could I pay. They were my saving grace and I owe NAMI everything for what they did for me. They helped me learn about my illness, they put me in the NAMI classes, they believed in me, and they taught me that I was not alone. Without NAMI, I am not sure I would have survived it all.

3.) How has running helped you in your recovery?

It has given me a purpose, I run to break down the barriers of mental illness. When you run a 26.2 mile race and you complete with the other runners, you show that people with a diagnosis can go the distance too. Also, I hear things that others don’t and see things that others don’t and when I run, I think it releases serotonin and that gives the illness a real beating! I like to say I can drop my voices at mile five because they can’t keep up. It is my best medicine to fight them; it is my best coping skill. When I run I am free, I know I can use it to help with the symptoms and the weight gain that comes from taking psychiatric medications. In addition, running has been tool for me in breaking down stigma because I can take it to the general population and get it out to the communities, to the people who rarely ever think of mental illness except when it makes headlines because of an incident. It is my way to speak to the world, that we are people too, and we too can go the extra mile.

 4.) What were some important resources for you during your journey with mental illness? 

NAMI classes, NAMI library, and the folks at NAMI with their vast amount of knowledge and caring. They helped me navigate a system that is not easy to navigate; they helped me understand the steps to take to get what I needed. A Another important resource was my psychiatrist who actually listened to me and supported me in my healing. I am also on SMI (serious mentally ill) probation and my probation officer Doug is a huge support for me and makes it possible for me to travel and run.

5.) Do you have any advice for others seeking treatment? 

Yes, contact your local NAMI, contact them and work with them, they can be your greatest source of information and understanding. Enroll in the NAMI classes and meet other peers that struggle with psychiatric challenges. Always hope, never give up, and when you find what works for you, never stop doing what works. And share and support others when you can, giving back is empowering and when you feel empowered you have the energy and motivation to keep going strong!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Alissa's Story

This is a story of recovery from a woman named Alissa who took the NAMI Utah BRIDGES class (a free 12-week education class for individuals living with mental illness). As of this weekend, she is now a certified BRIDGES teacher!! Congratulations Alissa and thank you for sharing your story and teaching others that, "recovery is worth fighting for."

“My recovery is an ongoing project, as I imagine it always will be. That being said, I am healthier today, both physically and mentally, than I have been in over a decade. I have been in what one would call “recovery” for about 6 years now. I take my meds every day, and I follow a strict and healthy diet (low sugars, no caffeine or alcohol). I have even been able to hold down jobs (which is a big deal for me). My outlook on life has changed dramatically over the years. I live my life striving for positivity and optimism each day. Still, I do have a brain disorder, and I understand that it takes a daily effort to monitor myself and keep myself healthy. I have a great “med-manager”, an APRN who keeps an eye on me and works with me to help me feel as balanced as possible. I am very lucky to be where I am today. I know that I could have slipped through the cracks and become a statistic very easily. Without a strong support system of family, friends and medical professionals, I can say I probably would not be the happy and healthy person I am today. I know that I will never be “cured” of my brain disorder, but I have stopped wishing for a cure. I see my “illness” as a blessing. It has given me insight into so many things. Having a chronic illness has given me a level of empathy for others I couldn’t have gained any other way. Most importantly, being diagnosed with Bipolar II has given me something I never knew I had; the spirit of a fighter. I have had to fight to find my recovery. I want to show others that they have that spirit in them as well. Recovery is worth fighting for. It can take years, but ultimately it is so worth it. I am proof.”

For a schedule of FREE classes and support groups in your area click HERE.  

Alissa at the Eiffel Tower. The trip, she says, wouldn't have been possible before her recovery.