OKLA. CITY —
The local NAMI chapter last year educated more than 100 family members of adult patients and nearly 80 clients who have children with some type of mental illness.
Eileen Morefield, president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Oklahoma’s Edmond/North Oklahoma City affiliate, said the chapter anticipates doubling that amount during the coming year.
NAMI Oklahoma, which seeks to improve the quality of life for children, adults and families affected by mental illness, is sponsoring its annual fundraiser, the June 7 NAMI Walk in downtown Oklahoma City at the Myriad Gardens.
Morefield said the fundraiser supports the workings of the NAMI state office and state affiliates. Half of the dollars raised and dedicated to the Edmond/North OKC affiliate will be its budget for the coming year.
“We use it to present programs with trained leaders to the families of those stricken with mental illness,” Morefield said.
In the state of Oklahoma, there are more than 700,000 citizens fighting some type of mental illness. That does not include the affect that these diseases have on the families, Morefield said. NAMI programs include education for family members of adult loved ones, special classes for families of children and a whole host of support groups, Morefield said.
The NAMI Walk comes when lawmakers and state agencies are dealing with a lean budget year. The overall state budget for Fiscal Year 2015 is $102 million less than FY14, House leaders announced when members sent the annual general appropriations bill to the governor.
“This fiscal year, we have either reduced or held the line on state agency spending,” said state Rep. Scott Martin, R-Norman, chairman of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee.
Exactly how the approved budget will impact relevant mental health providers isn’t yet known, said Jeff Dismukes, spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse.
Jackie Shaw, executive director of Edmond Family Counseling, said inadequate resources impact the availability and variety of affordable services to the public.
“Mental health still carries with it a level of stigma that we as a society fight against daily,” Shaw said. “We also vicariously or personally experience the aftermath of trauma from mental illness, which is available through a variety of media today.”
Shaw said the question then becomes: Is mental health getting worse or do we just have greater immediate access to what happens in certain situations involving mental health or mental illness?
“In Edmond, I believe we are aware and concerned,” Shaw said. “This is positive, but not curative. We need increased awareness of the need for research of mental illness so that when a person is diagnosed, the profession has a solid basis of treatment that is accessible and effective.”
NAMI has supported the local community in other tangible ways.
In October 2012, the organization sponsored a candlelight vigil in Hafer Park to raise awareness, reduce stigma and provide hope for those affected by serious mental illness.
NAMI Oklahoma’s fundraising goal is $135,000. As of Wednesday, $70,628, 52 percent of the goal, had been raised through the generosity of 415 donors, according to online information.
Morefield said every dollar, even if someone can only afford to donate $5, will help keep these programs going and thriving. Morefield said it’s easy to make a tax deductible donation online. In order to help the local affiliate, visit www.namiwalks.org, click on “Find a Walk” and follow instructions to find the Oklahoma walk. The site also provides more information about NAMI.
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