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Area talks interest in mental-health support group

Valley News Today - 10/23/2017

Representatives from various mental-health related organizations met Friday, Oct. 6, to consider becoming a member of a national organization to help address needs related to mental health.

Those at the meeting learned more about creating a National Alliance on Mental Illness chapter for Southwest Iowa.

"We have a community of consumers who would benefit," said Berneeta Wagoner, from Southwest Iowa Families based in Clarinda, which is where the meeting was held.

NAMI is a community-based mental health organization, with chapters across the country, who raise awareness and provide support and education that was not previously available in the area. NAMI began in 1979 in Wisconsin among families with members with mental-health needs.

Judy Davis, from NAMI in Des Moines, was in attendance and further explained the organization and needs to start a chapter.

One service NAMI has is called Family to Family, a 12-week course to instruct family members on how to live with relatives with a mental-health diagnosis. The goal of the course is to provide possible solutions to families caring for ones with mental-health needs.

Peer to Peer is a 10-session course for adults with mental illnesses who can be more informed of their condition and how to productively live.

"You've got the energy," Davis said to those in attendance about creating a chapter. "You are the Energizer bunny."

According to NAMI's website, there are 13 chapters in Iowa. Council Bluffs had been the location for a NAMI chapter, but it has dissolved.

A group of people in Centerville created a NAMI chapter after fears a crisis-support facility in town would lose a significant amount of its funding. The facility is similar to Turning Point in Clarinda. Since the creation of NAMI, Centerville's chapter has two support groups that meet weekly.

Davis said there are some formalities that would need to be determined to establish a Southwest Iowa NAMI chapter. Each chapter must have a bank account, mailing address and a phone number for a chapter contact. Individual membership fees must also be paid.

Davis said of the Iowa chapters, five of them have staff members, the rest all use volunteers.

"There are creative ways to answer the phone," Davis said about volunteer-driven chapters.

A United Way grant helped fund the start-up of NAMI in Decorah in northeast Iowa.

Iowa Department of Human Services' Suzanne Watson was at the meeting and was supportive of a NAMI chapter. She is director of the Southwest Iowa territory that includes Page, Cass, Fremont, Harrison, Mills, Monona, Montgomery, Pottawattamie and Shelby counties. She is based in Council Bluffs.

She said it's possible her resources could assist in creating the chapter, as along as it's intended for a significant number of people.

Although the meeting was held in Page County, those in attendance agreed the Southwest Iowa chapter could be utilized by the same counties as Watson's territory. The chapter should not imply its intended for one specific place through its name.

Those in attendance will further research the needs. Another meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m., Friday, Oct. 27, at Southwest Iowa Families in Clarinda.


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