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At the NAMI Mass Convention Members will be Voting for 6 Board of Directors

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At the NAMI Mass Convention on October 29, 2016, Members will be voting for SIX NAMI MASS Board of Directors. When we sent out the absentee ballots we made an error in the instructions. Please note the correct ballot instructions below:

On the Absentee Ballot, that was mailed to you recently

WE SAID: If voting instructions are not followed, your ballot is invalid and will not be counted. Please vote for NO MORE THAN SIX of the following candidates.  INCORRECT INSTRUCTIONS

WE SHOULD HAVE SAID: If voting instructions are not followed, your ballot is invalid and will not be counted… Please vote for SIX of the following candidates. CORRECT INSTRUCTIONS

Please contact the office with any questions you have, 800-370-9085 or 617-580-8541.

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We are Looking for Family Members of Individuals with Mental Health and/or Substance Use Conditions to Share Your Experiences

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The NAMI Mass Criminal Justice Diversion Project works to help local police departments and other law enforcement personnel across the Commonwealth respond effectively and compassionately to citizens struggling with and displaying symptoms of mental illness and/or substance use conditions.

NAMI Peer-to-Peer is a free 11-week recovery-focused educational program for adults working to establish and maintain wellness in response to mental health challenges. Peer-to-peer provides a confidential place to learn from shared experiences in an environment of sincere, uncritical acceptance.

Allies for Student Mental Health is a two-hour professional development program designed to help K-12 teachers, parents and school staff work as allies to identify and understand mental health conditions that have a significant impact on students’ academic success and overall well-being.

If you are a family member eager to share your perspective in order to help others, there may be a role for you in one of these programs! Flexible schedule, low time commitment. Please fill out the application form and email it to Annabel Lane at alane@namimass.org by December 1st. Once we receive the form we’ll be in touch to discuss more details.

NAMI Mass Testifies at Legislative Hearing on Bridgewater State “Hospital”

Today the Legislative Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse is holding an informational hearing on Bridgewater State Hospital to begin the conversation with the Administration, Legislature, advocates and family members about the future of Bridgewater State Hospital.

For years, decades really, NAMI Mass has strongly opposed the fact that people with histories of mental illness and trauma are confined to Bridgewater State “hospital” which is really a medium-security prison run by the Department of Corrections. Massachusetts is the only state in the entire country that gives its state prison authority to assume responsibility for men who in any other state in the country would the responsibility of the state Department of Mental Health. All patients committed to Bridgewater State Hospital who have not committed a crime should be transferred immediately to the Department of Mental Health.

For more information, please read the testimony of NAMI Mass’ Executive Director, Laurie Martinelli.

And to learn more about Bridgewater State Hospital, please come to the NAMI Mass Convention on Saturday, October 29, 2016, when one of our workshops will focus on Bridgewater State and what advocates can do to start demanding real change.

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Testimony of Laurie Martinelli, Executive Director
National Alliance on Mental Illness of Massachusetts (NAMI Mass)
Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse
Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Chairwomen Flanagan and Malia, and members of the Committee:

My name is Laurie Martinelli, and I am the Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Massachusetts (NAMI Mass). I am appearing today on behalf of NAMI’s Board of Directors, members, affiliates and NAMI supporters across the Commonwealth.

NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. NAMI advocates for access to services and is steadfast in its commitment to raising awareness about mental illness. Since our inception in 1979, NAMI has been dedicated to improving the quality of life of individuals and families affected by mental illness.

I want to thank you for this opportunity to offer input on the status of Bridgewater State Hospital, a medium-security prison run by the Department of Correction. This facility has been wrongly tasked with providing housing and treatment to a significant number of “civilly committed” men with mental illness. For decades, the Commonwealth has asked its Department of Correction to take responsibility for people who have mental health issues, trauma, and substance use disorders. In virtually every other state in the country, these same individuals would be cared for by the state mental health and public health systems.

Continuing to require our Department of Correction to care for them is costly, both in economic and human terms. The collateral consequences of incarceration are incredibly damaging, from the disruption in treatment to the loss of housing, employment, and family support. For people with histories of trauma and mental illness, being confined in a prison is uniquely harmful, inhumane and punishing. This experience greatly reduces their chances for restoration, recovery, and integration back into the community. Bridgewater State Hospital’s history has been marked by decades of being hidden and forgotten until tragedy strikes and the media publicizes the stories of individuals and families who have experienced the inadequacies of the care and treatment being provided to patients.

I present one such story to you today from one of our NAMI members but there are countless others. This person’s 31-year-old son, Bob, was sent to Bridgewater State Hospital for a forensic evaluation by the Salem District Court. Because of Bob’s psychosis, he had a disorderly conduct charge from a hospital stay. Bob’s parents tried in vain to explain to the Court that Bob was not a violent person and was in need of mental health treatment. The clinician at the Salem District Court decided to send Bob to Bridgewater State hospital rather than another venue such as Lemuel Shattuck.

While at Bridgewater State Hospital, he was initially placed in the Intensive Treatment Unit and remained there for about two weeks. At one point, he had four-point restraints and medication was forced upon him against his wishes. One evening during the 2011 Labor Day weekend he was attacked by another inmate with a footlocker as he lay on his bunk in his unit. The blow to his head fractured one of his orbital bones. Severely bruised, he was sent to Morton hospital in Taunton for an evaluation and was returned to Bridgewater. Bob’s parents visited him and were shocked to see his condition. Bob and his parents were greatly concerned for his safety. Eventually, 9 months later, Bob was transferred to Taunton State Hospital and began to receive meaningful and effective individual and group therapy. We are now happy to report that he has secured full-time employment in construction and has successfully reintegrated back into his community.

For a time, public scrutiny from stories like Bob’s leads to additional resources and improvements; however, once the spotlight is off of the facility, it reverts back to what it is– a correctional facility, staffed by correction officers who, even when clinical staff are available some of the time, are not and can never be mental health workers.

It is time to end the use of Bridgewater State Hospital for the evaluation or civil commitment of people not convicted of a crime. Efforts to provide clinical staff at the Bridgewater facility have come up short time and time again. The Department of Mental Health must assume responsibility for those individuals with histories of trauma, mental health, and substance use.

Massachusetts stands alone in the country by requiring its state prison authority to assume responsibility for men who in any other state would be the responsibility of the state Department of Mental Health. We must finally catch up to the rest of the country and transfer Bridgewater State Hospital to the Department of Mental Health in order to care for the Commonwealth’s sickest patients in a way that is humane, will promote recovery, and will avoid senseless tragedies like that experienced by Joshua Messier, Leo Marino and countless others.

It is our hope that more of the men currently residing at Bridgewater State Hospital can acquire the treatment necessary to experience a full recovery, like Bob. While we laud the Administration for the proposed changes laid out in the Boston Globe today, how they set forth standards for staffing levels, the range of clinical services provided, staff training and new policies and procedures remains to be seen. While any long-needed improvements are welcome, NAMI Mass believes that they will always be limited by the Department of Correction’s continued responsibility for the evaluation and treatment of men with mental illness.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

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Letter to the Editor of The Boston Globe

August 30, 2016

To the Editor:

Thank you to the Globe Spotlight Team for your article (“The Desperate and the Dead: Community Care”) that shines a light on the complex and sensitive topic of mental health care.

While we are offended by the Spotlight series’ focus on linking violence to those suffering from mental illness, we agree with much that was written about the chronic underfunding of a mental health care system that leaves so many people without the care that they desperately need. NAMI Mass members experience daily the negative consequences of low insurance reimbursement rates and lack of systemic coordination that result in outpatient mental health care facilities closing and the number of available hospital beds being reduced.

As the Globe acknowledged, the Baker Administration has made initial, though modest, steps to address these problems but more aggressive steps are needed. It is important to remember that we do not need to start from scratch. There are successful programs–(the Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative (CBHI) and the Program of Assertive Community Treatment (PACT) are examples—already in place, but they are all too often inadequately funded and narrowly disseminated.

We must provide high quality, affordable and effective mental health care to those who need it most, but it will take much more funding than is currently in the system.

Laurie Martinelli
Executive Director
NAMI Mass

The letter appeared in The Boston Globe on Friday, September 2, 2016