NAMI California Monthly Newsletter
January 2016
BoardDr. Ralph Nelson, Former NAMI CA President,
Steps Down from MHSOAC

Dr. Ralph Nelson
Dr. Ralph Nelson, former NAMI California President and NAMI national board member, has resigned from the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission (MHSOAC) after serving for five years.  NAMI California would like to express our deep gratitude to Dr. Nelson for his service on the Commission as well as for his years of work on behalf of individuals and families living with mental illness.

Ralph and Denise Nelson have been tireless proponents of mental health reform since the 1990s, when their son was first hospitalized. "We found very quickly that we had little say and had little knowledge of what was going on," he says. "It was an eye-opener."

After joining a family support group organized by what is now NAMI Tulare County, the Nelsons soon joined the board and helped incorporate the group as a not-for-profit corporation, growing the membership and expanding its programs.

Nelson was elected to the NAMI California Board of Directors in 2002, serving as President from 2004 to 2008 and Chair of the NAMI States Presidents' Council for two years. Nelson was a member of NAMI's national board from 2009 to 2015, serving as Treasurer for three years. 

As NAMI California President, Nelson was a forceful advocate for Proposition 63 and the Mental Health Services Act as well as criminal justice reform. He credits the MHSA as a critical turning point for Californians living with mental illness.

"The Mental Health Services Act changed how the state of California approached mental health services," Nelson says. "Until the Act, there was no push for recovery, resilience and wellness - and that is a goal that every person with mental illness should have. The whole system changed its focus to trying to promote those principles so more people could have self-determination about their lives. (Before the MHSA), there wasn't a lot of hope. Since 2004, that's dramatically changed."

In late December 2010, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Nelson to the MHSOAC. Nelson came in with a clear vision of his role as commissioner: "I wanted to make sure that individuals living with mental illness and their families who were at the lower rungs of the ladder of recovery had a voice in California and the MHSOAC," he says.

Nelson chaired the MHSOAC Client and Family Leadership Committee for the last three years of his tenure, expanding the scope and quality of community forums, educating citizens and elected officials across the state about the Mental Health Services Act and the OAC, and giving a voice to individuals with mental illness, their family members and mental health providers.

Nelson is the chair of the Tulare County Mental Health Board and serves on the board of NAMI Tulare County, where his wife, Denise Nelson, is President. He is a former member of the California Collaborative Justice Court Advisory Committee and the California State Licensing and Certification Advisory Committee. Nelson worked as a radiologist from 1973 until his retirement in 1999.

In 2012, NAMI California honored Ralph and Denise Nelson with the Don & Peggy Richardson Memorial Award. Nelson says he could not have done his advocacy work without the support and the sage advice of his wife as well as the friendship and counsel of three mentors: Darlene Prettyman, Sharon Roth and Grace McAndrews.

NAMI California encourages our members who are interested in serving on the MHSOAC to apply for an appointment to the Commission. Please click here for an application.

Conversation30 Second Survey
Thanks for Your Feedback on Housing!  

We had a great response to December's 30 Second Survey! You cited a number of challenges related to housing:  lack of choices and availability, cost, quality, and poor understanding of mental illness among some housing managers. Several  respondents reported their loved ones had been evicted after experiencing a crisis. 

Suggestions for removing barriers to housing included: dedicated housing for people with mental illness, vouchers, better resources for locating housing, improving quality, supervision by therapists or social workers, mandates for treatment, jobs for people with mental illness, and public education to encourage communities to welcome more supportive housing options.

A sampling of your comments:
  • "Right now the various offerings are are so scattered in their access and the terminology is very confusing."
  • "Supportive housing should be available to all based on need."
  •  "Many, many people are living with their families, but most housing requires that a person has been homeless. That leaves people struggling to care for their loved ones with no alternatives unless they are willing to make their loved one live on the street for a period."
  • "Owners did not want to rent to someone without a job or with obvious symptoms of mental illness."
This month's survey asks you to let us know how NAMI has affected your life.  

ConferenceConference News
Register Now for Our Super Early Bird Special!

fuzzy-chick.jpg Register now and take advantage of our Super Early Bird Special for the 2016 NAMI California Annual Conference! The conference will take place August 26 & 27, 2016  at the San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront in Burlingame. We're planning a great lineup of speakers and workshops, so mark your calendars and register for the conference now!

AdvocacyAdvocacy & Legislation
Advocating for Mental Health Parity

By Lea Nagy
NAMI Humboldt County

Lea Nagy at the Capitol
Recently I spent time in Sacramento to advocate for Mental Health Parity regarding insurance coverage. The experience at the Capitol was very rewarding for me and really made me feel I could make a difference for families and their loved ones at the policy level.

I first met with Assembly member Jim Wood and Senator Mike McGuire representing the 2nd District. They were both really responsive and validated my experience and concerns with mental health parity. I talked to them about the insurance parity issues with my grandson, who stayed four days in a medical ER while experiencing a psychotic episode due to lack of beds and then was discharged from a psychiatric hospital against the advice of the psychiatrist after the insurance company denied the request for more inpatient hospital days.

I also talked about the importance of passing the Parent and Peer Certification Bill (SB 614) in the upcoming year. I was able to discuss the issues with insufficient adequate mental health care while consumers are in the ER and the need for standardized training so consumers are properly served and receive the care they deserve from hospital staff with mental health expertise.  Furthermore, we mentioned our concerns with AB 1300 that would allow hospitals to deny emergency psychiatric medical treatment to individuals in need of care and allow hospital staff without mental health expertise to make mental health diagnoses and treatment decisions.

In addition, I testified during public comment about enforcement of insurance parity laws and felt participating legislators (Senator Beall, Hernandez, Pan, Anderson and Mitchell) really listened and had empathy for those of us who spoke about their issues.

I urge all NAMI members to get involved, speak up when the opportunity arises, and make a difference in our lives and the lives of our loved ones. NAMI California was awesome and really mentored me through this process and supported me the entire time I was in Sacramento.
NAMI California Summary of 
Governor's Proposed 2016-2017 Budget

California Governor Jerry Brown has proposed a $123 billion spending plan for the next fiscal year. NAMI California has reviewed the Governor's proposed budget, which includes significant allocations for mental health programs, health care, social services, criminal justice and education.
Good News: 
Mental Health Services Act revenue is continuing to increase, with 2014-15 revenue estimated to be $1.9 billion and 2015-16 revenues projected to be $2 billion. The first state-provided increase to SSI/SSP since 2006 is proposed, with a nearly 3% cost of living increase in payments beginning in January 2017. And, $20 million is allocated for grants to cities to promote positive relations between city police departments and the homeless community, persons with mental health needs or high-risk youth populations.
Bad News:
Proposition 47 savings are much lower than predicted, at $29 million for this year, and $59 million for future years (predictions were $100-200 million). This leaves fewer resources for mental health treatment and housing assistance. 
2015 NAMI California Advocacy Survey

Thank you so much to the 45 affiliates who completed the 2015 NAMI California advocacy survey! The report found:
  • After working in 2015 to establish a statewide minimum standard for law enforcement mental health training (SB 11 and SB 29), most NAMI affiliates are actively involved in law enforcement training programs. NAMI California has established a partnership with the California Highway Patrol to train officers, and half of the affiliates responding to the survey are now working with CHP divisions.
  • NAMI affiliates are involved in annual Mental Health Services Act plan updates in 37 counties, but experiences are mixed. Some affiliates report robust stakeholder processes while others report significant room for improvement.
  • NAMI affiliates report challenges and concerns with local hospital emergency departments, including stigmatizing treatment by health care professionals, lack of available beds, and lack of mental health professionals. However, most affiliates have access to crisis stabilization and mobile crisis response facilities in their county.

NAMI On Campus High School Training in Rocklin

Forty-one students from five high schools in Sacramento and Placer counties participated in a NAMI On Campus High School training in Rocklin in January. 

NAMI On Campus clubs offer students the opportunity to speak openly about mental health, learn ways to support friends or family members who have a mental illness, and work to end stigma on campus and in their communities.

During NCHS trainings, students and their club advisors are provided with manuals that offer information on topics such as club procedures, maintaining confidentiality, what to do if a mental health emergency occurs, tips, ideas, and resources, as well as a club toolkit that contains sample meeting agendas, bylaws and flyers to advertise club meetings. 

Students learn about NAMI, MHSA, CalMHSA and Each Mind Matters and  discuss stigma, mental health and wellness, and inclusiveness. By the end of the training students are able to successfully run their own NCHS Clubs.

NAMI on Campus High School is a pilot program offered by NAMI California, together with the Placer County Office of Education and the California Department of Education and funded by CalMHSA.

NAMI National Convention: Register By Jan. 31 & Save
The NAMI National Convention educates, inspires and empowers a diverse community of individuals living with mental illness, family members, researchers, providers, field leaders, policy makers and educators to advance and sustain recovery from mental illness as well as act, advocate and achieve change in the mental health system across the country.

Attend the NAMI National Convention to:
  • Learn how to spearhead advocacy efforts for mental health reform
  • Be inspired by top researchers sharing exciting new research and tools
  • Expand your skills and network with experts in the mental health field
  • Earn CE credits as a licensed counselor, social worker or registered nurse
The First-On-Board conference member rate of $195 is available until Jan. 31. 

To learn more about our program offerings and help plan your trip to Denver, check out the  preliminary program schedule .
AffiliatesAffiliate News
NAMI Sonoma County Featured In Press Democrat

NAMI Sonoma County was featured in a recent article about holiday depression and suicide in the Press Democrat. The story included information about NAMI's Warmline, NAMI Connection and quotes from Executive Director  Nikki Buckstead. Click the link below to read the article.

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!
DonateDonate to NAMI California


Thanks to Our Sponsors


Let's Get Social!
What can we do better?
If you have something you'd like to see in the newsletter or want to send us a compliment, send us an email!
Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.