NAMI California Monthly Newsletter
February 2016
ConferenceConference News

Sign Up Now For Our Annual Conference

Register now for the 2016 NAMI California Annual Conference  for our special early bird rate! This year's conference theme is "Back to the Future: Building on the Past for a Better Tomorrow," featuring a variety of tracks to choose from, inspirational speakers and educational workshops. The conference will be held August 26 and 27 at the San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront in Burlingame. Come learn about the latest news, research and breakthroughs in mental health!

Click here to reserve your room
or call (888) 236-2427 or (650) 692-9100 and ask for the NAMI California group rate. Make your reservations early, as space is limited and rooms fill up fast!

Interested in participating in the Color Guard, singing the National Anthem or volunteering at the conference? Contact Erik at .
NAMI California Annual Conference website
Award Nominations, Workshop Proposals  & Exhibitors

Do you have a workshop proposal for our annual conference? Do you know someone who deserves to be recognized for helping improve the lives of people living with mental illness? Are you interested in being a conference exhibitor? Here are the forms you need:

Workshop Proposal
(new deadline: 3/11/16)
(deadline: 4/29/16)
(deadline: 7/5/16)
BlogFrom the NAMI California Blog

Hospitals Should Be Places For Healing, Not Harm

By Jessica Cruz
NAMI California Executive Director

The treatment of mental illness in hospitals remains a severe crisis in this country - costing millions of dollars each year as well as countless lives lost or unjustly criminalized.

The recent New York Times report, " When the Hospital Fires the Bullet," and corresponding This American Life segment, " My Damn Mind," dramatically portray the challenges faced by individuals and family members seeking emergency psychiatric care - and the tragedies that can follow when staff are not prepared to care for someone in crisis.

Alan Peon, like many individuals experiencing a psychiatric crisis, sought help at a local emergency room. He and his family rightfully expected trained mental health professionals to evaluate and treat his psychiatric emergency condition with compassionate, quality, culturally appropriate and timely care in a safe, nonthreatening environment - exactly what we expect when we seek treatment for any medical condition. Instead, he was shot in the chest and nearly died.

Conversation30 Second Survey
SurveyMembers Share How NAMI Has Affected Their Lives

In our last survey, we asked you to tell us how NAMI has affected your life. We received responses from members all over the state relating how NAMI has helped them find the path to recovery, better  understand mental illness, learn how to help a family member or loved one, fight stigma, and advocate for mental health reform.

A sampling of your comments:
  • NAMI was the single most important organization or "individual" in our family's existence since our son had a serious breakdown and was diagnosed with a serious form of mental illness... We will forever be indebted to NAMI.
  • Before NAMI I saw mental illness as behaviors without seeing the people. NAMI taught me empathy. My life is richer and much more meaningful, and I feel privileged to work with those with mental health challenges.
  • NAMI has changed my life. Before I was an OK advocate for myself and others with mental illness. Now I have a lot of tools that make me a lot better! 
  • I found friendship, and hope that there is recovery for families and my son. Also, (NAMI) empowers me to speak up to fight stigma.
  • NAMI has been the catalyst to take a tragic disease and turn it into a call to legislative action.

This month's survey: What was your experience the first time you accessed mental health services for yourself or your loved one?

WebsiteNAMI California Website

Check Out Our New Website!

NAMI California's   brand-new website is now live! Our new site has a fresh and clean feel with easier navigation to better serve our members, affiliates and visitors. We'd like to thank the talented team at  Big Tomato Tech and  NAMI EasySite for designing and customizing the site. We're still updating content and adding features, so please check back often!

New features:
  • Easier to use Find Your Local NAMI tools, including county map and search by ZIP code
  • Better search functionality for NAMI classes and support groups, including Google maps of locations
  • Modern look and feel
  • Built-in Google translate on every page
  • Better social sharing and integration of social networks
  • Optimized for smart phones and tablets
  • Ability to resize text from any page (larger or smaller)
AdvocacyAdvocacy & Legislation
Front Row: Linda Mayo, NAMI Stanislaus; Rhonda Allen, Secretary, NAMI Stanislaus;  Joyce Plis-Hickman, NAMI Stanislaus; Leslie Molera, NAMI Solano; Gertie Kandris, NAMI San Joaquin. Back Row: Lynn Padlo, Director, NAMI Stanislaus;  Patricia Wentzel, NAMI Sacramento;  Marcel Harris, NAMI California; Dr. Daniel Rockers;  Tasso Kandris, NAMI San Joaquin.

Lobby Day at the Capitol

NAMI members from San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Sacramento, Solano, Napa and Placer counties came together at the California State Capitol to advocate for mental health on Lobby Day in February.
The group shared their experiences with California legislative staff from 10 offices, advocating for crisis services, Crisis Intervention Trainings (CIT) for first responders, and the expansion of mental health courts. They also urged legislators to voice their support for SB 614 (Peer and Family Certification) to Gov. Jerry Brown. 

Advocates also provided insights on mental health services, citing the benefits of crisis response teams, diversion programs and peer mentors as well as concerns about the shortage of psychiatric beds.
Legislators are not always fully aware of how access to mental health care can ultimately save lives and lead to recovery and wellness. These meetings allow legislators to hear directly from constituents regarding the needs, benefits and accessibility of mental health services. 

NAMI California will continue to create opportunities for members to build relationships with their California legislators and make their voices heard. Our thanks and appreciation to all of you for advocating for mental health and substance abuse services!   
Graduates of February's Family Support Group training in Modesto

NAMI Modesto Family Support Group Training

A group of 20 people participated in the Family Support Group training in Modesto in February. The attendees were excited to learn about the NAMI support group model. Says one graduate: "I am very happy and positive to take this wonderful program to my Latino community. Thanks to NAMI!"  Thank you to NAMI Stanislaus and the three volunteers who helped make this weekend possible!
Peer Mentors Make a Difference

NAMI California's Programs Department recently received this email from a Peer Mentor from NAMI Mendocino County:

NAMI has provided an opportunity for people from all walks of life to train as Peer Mentors, allowing those of us with a desire to teach to bring hope to others with similar experiences/conditions so we can help inspire each other, with the educational materials provided, to live our new lives in manageable ways. What I have experienced in my first year as a Peer Mentor is that those of us with unique experiences are beautiful and wonderful. We do matter. We can make an enormous difference in our communities, by education, advocacy, helping to divert the stigma, and various other positive outlets. We are people from very diverse lives who come together and advocate for a common cause: to end the stigma, educate ourselves (on our conditions) and to inform the public.

I have a vision, for California and America, that soon NAMI will be a household name in every home, community, county, state, and country. 
AffiliatesAffiliate News

NAMI Contra Costa Launches Mental Health Crash Course

NAMI Contra Costa County launched a new program in February that provides a comprehensive orientation to the mental health system. The Mental Health Crash Course covers a wide range of topics families and consumers need to know about serious mental illness, accessing mental health services, and resources available in the community.

The 90-minute seminar is offered every Wednesday evening throughout the year at the Family Justice Center in Concord, with the same material provided each week. Each participant receives a booklet with a summary of the course as well as contact information for mental health facilities and programs.

The Mental Health Crash Course is a joint project of NAMI Contra Costa County, the Family Justice Center, the George & Cynthia Miller Wellness Center and Contra Costa Behavioral Health Services.  

"We've realized that when families or individuals unexpectedly find themselves needing mental health services, they need answers, right now," said David Kahler, Treasurer of NAMI Contra Costa. "For this reason our 'crash course' will be available every single week of the year."

This is the first time this much-needed service has been offered in California. Once established, the Crash Course will be expanded to the Richmond and Brentwood areas and eventually to all California counties. For more information, visit the Mental Health Crash Course website at or email
BoardGet to Know Your Board
Ratan Bhavnani

Ratan Bhavnani
Ratan Bhavnani has served on the NAMI California Board of Directors for five years. He first joined the Board of NAMI Ventura County in 2005 and served as its Executive Director from 2008 until 2015. 

As with many NAMI members, Ratan and his wife joined NAMI and became active advocates because of a problem they were totally unprepared to deal with: the mental illness of their son. They learned about NAMI and began a journey that continues to this day - a journey of recovery for their loved one and the opportunity to help other families.

Ratan graduated from UCLA with a master's degree in Computer Science. After 33 years in the IT world, he now calls himself a mental health advocate. He continues to volunteer with NAMI, serves on the Ventura County Behavioral Health Advisory Board, and can be seen at almost all meetings relating to mental health around Ventura County.

Ratan lives in Thousand Oaks with his wife, Nina. He enjoys traveling and spending time with his two grandchildren.
StaffMeet Your NAMI California Staff
Beth Wolf

Beth Wolf with her husband and son.
Beth Wolf joined NAMI California three years ago as the Stigma and Discrimination Programs Coordinator. She transitioned to the position of Director of Programs a few months later, where she is responsible for overseeing all NAMI California programs and trainings.
Beth has a long history of working with youth and their families, getting her start in high school as the local Mother's Club official babysitter and a camp counselor. Beth's professional experience includes roles as camp director, pre-kindergarten teacher, event coordinator and project manager. She received a bachelor's degree in Child Development from Sacramento State University.
In her work at NAMI California, Beth is honored to be able to blend her previous employment experiences into her role as Director of Programs. With her passion for educating and empowering youth and families living with mental illness, she has overseen the growth of the Ending the Silence program and led the development of NAMI on Campus High School Clubs.  Beth hopes to be able to integrate more programs into the NAMI California lineup over the next several years to engage more audiences in the topics of mental health and stigma reduction.
Beth comes from a large family of five brothers. She and her husband, Zack, welcomed their first child, a son, last spring. She is loving every moment of motherhood and feels a renewed urgency to make the world a better place for her little boy to grow up in. Beth enjoys being with her family, hiking, baking, and traveling with her husband to Jimmy Buffett concerts.  

We welcome your submissions for the NAMI California monthly newsletter. We look for articles from our affiliates and members across the state that highlight the best of what's happening in California.  Please keep the length of your submission to 250 words or less, and include a contact name, email and phone number in case we need to reach you for more information. We love photos, so please send a picture if you have one. We regret that we cannot publish all submissions, and we reserve the right to edit all content.
Email your submissions to Thank you, and we look forward to hearing from you!
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