• Gov. Brown Moves To Tackle Housing Challenges


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    Governor Jerry Brown makes a significant commitment to tackling California’s housing challenges in his May Revision of the 2016-17 California State Budget.

    NAMI California has long recognized that individuals with mental illness are severely impacted by the shortage of affordable and supportive housing in the state and that our constituents face unique barriers accessing appropriate housing. Over 40 percent of individuals who are homeless live with a mental illness, and many more individuals and families impacted by mental illness live on the edge of homelessness due to our weak mental health safety net. We also know that housing is a significant determinant of mental health and wellness.

    In January, the Governor recognized the difficulty California faces in siting housing and treatment facilities that provide services to those who were previously incarcerated, including those living with mental illness. In an effort to encourage local governments to site these facilities, the Governor included $25 million for an incentive grant program. The May Revision further specifies the components of this program, now called the “Community-Based Transitional Housing Program”:

    • The grant program would provide additional funds to local communities that site, for a minimum for 10 years, new transitional housing and supportive services for offenders released from state prison or county jail.
    • The grant program would require that a portion of the funds be used by the city or county to increase public safety around the facility and improve communication with neighbors.
    • The grant program would require funding to be shared with nonprofit facility operators to support rehabilitative services, security, and community outreach.
    • The grant program would contain a competitive application process with, among other aspects, would prioritize cities and counties that leverage or provide other funding for the facility.

    The Governor also proposes to address the significant siting concerns through legislation under which a local government could not require a conditional use permit, planned unit development permit, or other discretionary local government review or approval for qualifying developments that include affordable housing, providing they are consistent with objective general plan and zoning standards, as well as environmental measures if necessary.

    Lastly, the Governor proposes funding the Senate Pro Tem’s Proposition 63 housing measure (the “No Place Like Home” initiative) over seven years, with first year funding of $267 million from bond proceeds. The funds would support permanent supportive housing, rental subsidies, and technical assistance to counties.

    NAMI California recognizes the tremendous need for additional supportive housing for individuals living with serious mental illness and has released Behavioral Health Housing Principles with the County Behavioral Health Directors Association.

    As the Governor and the Legislature structure this new initiative, we encourage continued involvement of mental health consumers and family members. We also urge policymakers to ensure the program conforms to the voter-approved mandate of the Mental Health Services Act and that housing is provided to those living with serious mental illness.

    NAMI California also urges the Governor to fund the Medi-Cal Housing program proposed by the Legislature, which would complete the initiatives envisioned in California’s §1115 Waiver and would offer truly comprehensive services to those individuals in our health care system with the most complex needs.

  • Calling All Youth: Get Involved In Mental Health Month!


    #NAMICAYouthVoices NAMI California is calling youth ages 14-25 to spread awareness about mental health on Youth Advocacy Day on May 17 and all month long for Mental Health Month in May!

    NAMI California is calling all California youth ages 14-25 to stand up to stigma and spread awareness of mental illness during Mental Health Month in May!

    See our tips below for ideas on how you can participate in Mental Health Month in your community. All month long, share photos and posts of what you’re doing on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter using #NAMICAYouthVoices.

    On Youth Advocacy Day on Tuesday, May 17, 2016, all posters using the #NAMICAYouthVoices hashtag will be entered into a raffle to win a deluxe Each Mind Matters prize package (sweatshirt, T-shirt, and more). To be eligible for the prize, you must post on May 17 — however, be sure to use the hashtag all month long in May!

    Here are a just a few ways you can get involved:

    • Talk to your school administration and/or school board about implementing programs to reduce stigma and prevent suicide, like NAMI’s Ending the Silence
    • Set up a meeting with your local affiliate to talk about ways you can get involved locally
    • Watch and share Directing Change videos (visit
    • Hand out green ribbons around your community in honor of mental health awareness
    • Join your local NAMI affiliate and get involved in county mental health advocacy efforts
    • Pledge to stop using words like “crazy,” “schizo,” “lunatic” and other stigmatizing words
    • Write an article or blog post for your school or college newspaper
    • Gather your friends and wear all lime green. When people ask you why, explain about Each Mind Matters!
    • Register for NAMI CA’s Annual Conference in Burlingame, CA on August 21-22- there will be a whole track of workshops for youth and students!
    • Set up a meeting with your school principal, college dean or other school officials to talk about how to make your campus more accepting of mental health
    • Don’t forget to take photos and share online using #NAMICAYouthVoices!
    Each Mind Matters is California’s Mental Health Movement. We all have mental health, and our voices are amplified when we speak up together. Each Mind Matters grows stronger every day as millions of people and thousands of organizations are working to advance mental health!

  • Action Alert: People with mental illness don’t deserve to live in poverty

    Man in need. Unhappy homeless man is holding hands to get help.

    Nearly 1.3 million Californians currently receive Supplemental Security Income and the State Supplemental Payment. More than 70% are disabled and unable to work, often due to a serious mental illness.

    In 2007, the SSP grant was cut to the federal minimum and the cost-of-living adjustment was suspended and subsequently repealed. This drove the 1 million Californians who rely on this program into poverty.

    Today, the total maximum SSI/SSP payment for an individual in California is $889 a month – less than 91 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. Without further assistance, our family members living with mental illness who depend upon this grant live on the edge of homelessness and hunger.

    California is projecting a significant surplus for the 2016-17 budget and has the opportunity to reinvest in social programs, including the State Supplemental Payment and other supports for individuals living with serious mental illness. The Governor has proposed a modest cost-of-living increase of $17 per month for individuals, which would bring recipients from 91% of the Federal Poverty Level to just 92%.

    NAMI California is urging the Legislature and Governor to bring SSI/SSP recipients out of poverty by restoring the grant amount to 100% of the Federal Poverty Level and reinstate the Cost of Living Adjustment.

    Please join us in asking California to invest in bringing individuals living with serious mental illness out of poverty.

    Take Action Now

  • 30 Second Survey: Experiences With Ambulance & Fire Crews

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    In our last 30 Second Survey, we asked about your experiences in a crisis situation with ambulance and fire department crews. Many of you reported positive experiences, but there were several strong exceptions. Most had excellent advice on how crews can improve. Here is a sampling of your responses:

    What has your experience been in a crisis situation with ambulance staff? Fire department crews?

    • “Ambulance staff, Fire Dept. Staff & CHP have typically been very patient, kind and professional.”
    • “Fire crew was uneducated in mental health. I had to educate them on my condition.”
    • “One crew member was more understanding and patient, not to mention humane.”
    • “I actually had a great experience with ambulance staff. They were much more patient and understanding during the situation. They took the time to explain what was going on and why along with reassuring me constantly.”
    • “Ambulance crews have been great when transporting my son from ER to psych hospital. But, when they are transporting due to medical emergency (asthma), they started assuming it was a panic attack rather than asthma the minute my son told them he had an anxiety diagnosis even though he had a long history of asthma and knew the difference.”
    • “In a recent experience with two incidences the ambulance crews where very kind and gentle with the patient.”
    • “Arrogant. They talk about you as if you are not there.”

    How could they improve the experience?

    • “Be calm, create boundaries for those who may be too distressed to have them, offer concrete contact information in the form of a card with contact names and numbers.”
    • “When transporting a person with mental illness for a medical issue, do not assume that the medical issue is psychosomatic.”
    • “Remember we are humans, people. We live with this but we’re not incompetent idiots from another planet.”
    • “Take CIT!”
    • “They need more training in dealing with mental illness crisis.”
    • “(They) should have been more calm and less demanding.”
    • “I am a living breathing human being.”
    This month’s 30 Second Survey asks about your primary care physician’s role in mental health care for you or your loved one.

    Take this month’s 30 Second Survey!

  • A Special Message From NAMI CA Executive Director Jessica Cruz

    five little boys put their arms around each other while waiting for their baseball game to start

    Batter up! This sound fills my weekends and my heart with joy as my little ones (and I’m sure many of yours) begin baseball season. As I watch them play and learn how to work together as a team, I’m reminded of the important work of NAMI here in California.

    We, too, have to be sure that all of our bases are covered — and in mental health that is no small task. Mental health is such an important component of so many parts of the world that it can seem overwhelming to address all the areas we need to. Criminal justice, parity, local services, housing, and diversity and inclusion, among many other key issues, need our laser-sharp attention at all times. We have to be sure that our statewide trainings and oversight, as well as advocacy at the state and local level, are ready to respond when the time comes.

    We, too, must work as a team to ensure no one is left behind and that all voices are heard. All families should have the opportunity to achieve wellness and security for themselves and their loved ones.

    We, too, need a game plan — which is why our Board of Directors and staff are putting the final touches on our next five-year strategic plan. This plan will serve as our guiding star to make sure we are working on the issues that matter to you and your family members.

    We, too, need to be sure that we have a strong offense as well as a strong defense — which is why our advocacy department puts in an extraordinary effort at this time of year promoting bills that we believe in and working to remove bills that could be harmful for all of us. Last year alone, we tracked over 60 bills throughout the legislative cycle. This year looks to be just as busy, with exciting opportunities like peer certification that will provide great opportunities for families and individuals living with mental illness. Find out more about our advocacy work at

    So now, I’m asking you to step up to the plate and support the team by giving what you can to make sure we continue to hit it out of the park for you and your families. Help support the important work we do through our programs, advocacy, services, and leadership in California, keeping our voice strong at the Capitol and in each county chamber across this great state. We believe in the mission of NAMI, and we hope we can count on you to join us by giving a meaningful gift today.

    To make your tax-deductible donation, please click here or send a check to NAMI California, 1851 Heritage Lane, Suite 150, Sacramento, CA 95815.

    Thank you for your continued support and generosity.


    jessica sig

    Jessica Cruz, MPA/HS
    Executive Director


  • Meet Jessica Cruz, NAMI California Executive Director

    When you meet NAMI California Executive Director Jessica Cruz, it quickly becomes clear she’s an enthusiastic champion of NAMI and a tenacious force for mental health. She speaks earnestly about her vision for NAMI California and her compassion for those affected by mental illness. “NAMI is my life,” she says. “I love my job. I’m lucky to be in this position.”

    But six years ago, before she interviewed with NAMI California, Jessica had never heard of NAMI – even though she grew up with a mother who battled borderline personality disorder. Looking back, she calls her introduction to NAMI serendipitous. “I cried in my interview,” she says. “I asked, ‘Why didn’t I know about this before?’”

    Jessica was hired as Deputy Director and was soon promoted to Executive Director. Ever since, she’s been on a mission to make NAMI a household name so other individuals and families living with mental illness know immediately where to turn for answers. “When people think of mental illness, I want them to think of NAMI first,” she says. “I want NAMI to be considered the agency on mental illness.”

    “When people think of mental illness, I want them to think of NAMI first. I want NAMI to be considered the agency on mental illness.”

    After starting her new job, Jessica signed up for a Family-to-Family class offered by NAMI Sacramento. The class gave her a newfound understanding of her mother’s mental illness and crystallized her commitment to NAMI. “NAMI saved my life,” she says. “The Family-to-Family class gave me confidence to talk about mental illness and compassion towards my mother. It also taught me how to set boundaries.”

    Under Jessica’s leadership, NAMI California has tripled its staff, tripled its budget, forged new alliances, launched innovative programs and expanded existing ones. Current priorities include shaping sound mental health policy, decriminalizing mental illness, reducing stigma, building capacity for NAMI affiliates, creating new partnerships, reaching out to diverse communities, and ensuring individuals and families living with mental illness have access to the services and support they need.

    Jessica is proud of the NAMI California’s progress, giving credit to the entire organization, including the board, staff and affiliates. “You can’t win a basketball game alone – you have to have a team,” she explains, borrowing an analogy from her favorite sport. She also acknowledges the achievements of past NAMI California leaders. “I stand on the shoulders of giants. The people who came before me are my heroes. They set the groundwork for what we do.”

    Jessica is encouraged to see attitudes toward mental illness starting to shift. The more people feel comfortable discussing mental health, the more likely they are to seek treatment earlier and achieve recovery. “Mental illness is a hot topic now,” she says. “People are finally talking about it. But there is still a long way to go.”

    Despite the inevitable obstacles ahead, Jessica is determined to continue to advocate for those living with mental illness. “I don’t ever give up. I have a passion for change, a passion for people, a passion to make this world a better place, a passion for NAMI.”

     “I don’t ever give up. I have a passion for change, a passion for people, a passion to make this world a better place, a passion for NAMI.”

    Jessica lives in Sacramento with her husband, Markam, 7-year-old daughter, Ella, and 4-year-old son, M.J, along with their golden retriever, Rudy. An avid sports fan, she played basketball in college and still shoots hoops with her husband, a physical education teacher.

    Jessica previously served as the Executive Director of Muscular Dystrophy Association and worked in key positions at the California Hospital Association and the California Broadcasters Association. She holds a Master’s of Public Administration with an emphasis in Health Services from the University of San Francisco and a BA in Mass Communications from California State University at Sacramento, where she is a guest professor. She is a graduate of the USF Leadership Institute, the USC Leadership Institute, and the Nonprofit Resource Center Executive Director Leadership Institute.

    Jessica was recently appointed to the Commission on Mentally Ill Offenders and is a member of the CalSWEC Board, California WET Advisory Board, Health Education Foundation Advisory Board, Sacramento Professional Women’s Association, the Nonprofit Resource Center, Association of Fundraising Professionals, and a past Board Secretary of the Sacramento Public Relations Association.

  • 30 Second Survey: First Experiences With Mental Health Services

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    Thank you for your responses to our last 30 Second Survey question, “What  was your experience the first time you accessed mental health services for yourself or a loved one?”

    Survey responders said their first contact was with a health care provider, counselor, behavioral health center or mental health hospital, while a few called NAMI. Reports of first experiences with mental health services ranged from excellent or good to bureaucratic, unprofessional or even traumatic.

    A sampling of your comments:

    • “I took my son to (the mental health clinic). I thought he had overdosed on drugs and had no idea he had a serious mental illness.”
    • “Experience at the behavioral health center was not positive. Staff seemed bored and not sympathetic to pain family was experiencing.”
    • “Had my mental health needs been better addressed early on, I believe I would have saved needless years of suffering.”
    • “Excellent, except that this was before parity, so the HMO wanted $500 a day for psychiatric hospitalization.”
    • “(The hospital’s) ER nurses and physicians are untrained in mental health, rude to patients, do not practice patient confidentiality, and treat patients like criminals.”

    Would you like to share your experience the first time you accessed mental health services for yourself or a loved one? Click here to take the survey.

    Click here to take this month’s 30 Second Survey: What has your experience been in a crisis situation with ambulance staff? Fire department crews? How could they improve the experience?

  • Team-Bri To Compete For NAMI CA In Ironman Vineman
    Team Bri Bike horiz


    Team-Bri is back! The team will compete in the Ironman Vineman triathlon in Sonoma County this July to raise awareness and funds for NAMI California.

    The Ironman Vineman, which takes place on Saturday, July 30, has been a California classic for decades. Athletes will swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run 26.2 miles through Sonoma County’s wine country.

    Last year, Team-Bri raised nearly $34,000 for NAMI California in the epic Ironman Lake Tahoe triathlon. Donations benefit NAMI California’s criminal justice programs, creating statewide Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) trainings for law enforcement agencies and providing grants to affiliates needing program assistance.

    Team-Bri is named after Brian Lungren Jr., who grew up in the Lake Tahoe area as an exceptional athlete. In his teens, Bri experienced the onset of mental illness. Bri encountered law enforcement on numerous occasions, but those encounters never resulted in harm to either him or any officers. Bri’s family credits the willingness of law enforcement officers to become familiar with Bri and his family and to learn to identify when a person is experiencing a mental health crisis.

    Though he is not competing on the slopes anymore, Bri serves as the virtual Ironman coach for his father, Brian Sr., and sister, Alanna. At Bri’s urging, Brian Sr. and Alanna competed in  the 2015 Ironman Lake Tahoe and are continuing the cause by competing in Ironman Vineman in July.

    Contributions in Team-Bri’s name on behalf of NAMI California are being raised through the Ironman Foundation. Let’s support Team-Bri and NAMI California and show that recovery is possible!

    Team-Bri’s Ironman Vineman fundraising page

    Team-Bri website

    Team-Bri Facebook Page

  • 30 Second Survey: How Has NAMI Affected Your Life?


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    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, learn how to help a family member or loved one, better understand mental illness, 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 were educated about the illness and what to do, who to contact, and how to navigate the complicated “system.” Our son is able to live on his own in a form of public housing, still with a lot of help from us. We will forever be indebted to NAMI.
    • NAMI has been the catalyst to take a tragic disease and turn it into a call to legislative action. NAMI provides a voice for the clients in the legislative arena as well as on the local level. It has been a source of the most current information re meds, housing, programs and support from other caregivers when the going gets tough. My legislative commitment over the years has enlisted the help of family and friends to the plight of the mentally ill. They have signed petitions, sent letters to legislators & made phone calls. None of this would have been a part of their lives if I was not involved with NAMI.
    • I initially diagnosed our son’s mental illness through attending a Family-to-Family class. I now attend a weekly NAMI support group, and without this group of adults, who all have a loved one with a mental illness, I would not be able to cope. My NAMI friends “get” it – what it is truly like to watch a loved one deal with the ups and downs of a mental illness. It’s a roller coaster ride that we all deal with together, celebrating the highs and brainstorming how to handle the lows.
    • It has changed how I look at the world. 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.
    • Great! I took the Family-to-Family course over five years ago. The insights learned from that have opened my eyes and mind to all the challenges faced of mentally ill people.
    • 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!
    • We learned about NAMI from a Lodi News Sentinel announcement about the Family-to-Family education program, which my husband and I attended many years ago. We found out we were not alone in this struggle and were given the tools to better assist our mentally ill son and keep our family intact. We also became active NAMI volunteers.
    • NAMI has been a big part of my family’s life since its inception. Now that my parents have passed away, I’ve inherited my mentally ill brother whose medical conditions are his primary issues. I have found the public, private and nonprofit system for elderly people with serious mental illness is sorely lacking.
    • I have learned so much from NAMI. It has helped me in dealing with my son, who was recently diagnosed with mental illness, after becoming incarcerated at 27 years old. With NAMI education, I’m discovering so much I didn’t see when raising my loved one.
    • NAMI support group meetings were somewhere I could go and know I would feel better when I left. Awesome people to help me through the worst times of my life 🙂
    • I found friendship, and hope that there is recovery for families and my son. Also, (NAMI) empowers me to speak up to fight stigma.

    Would you like to share how NAMI has affected your life? Click here to take the survey.

  • Welcome to Our New Website!


    Website screenshot

    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)
    For affiliates:
    • Private login section (login instructions to be sent soon)
    • Ability to set up multiple users from each affiliate
    • Secure, private document capability
    • Class, group and event calendar
    Please let us know what you think! If you have comments or questions, please contact Kristin Rapinac at
  • Step Up, California

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    Each year, an estimated 2 million people with serious mental illnesses are admitted to jails across the nation. Jails are now housing more people with mental illnesses than psychiatric hospitals. The Stepping Up Initiative is a national movement to help keep people with mental illness out of jail and on the path to recovery. More than 300 U.S. counties have stepped up to join the initiative, including these 26 California counties:

    Alameda, Calaveras, Contra Costa, Del Norte, El Dorado, Humboldt, Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Madera, Mendocino, Merced, Nevada, Orange, Plumas, Riverside, San Diego, San Joaquin, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba.

    If your county isn’t on this list, please urge your local officials to pass a resolution supporting the Stepping Up Initiative.

    Stepping Up Initiative website

    What you can do

    Technical Assistance Opportunities in 2017

  • NAMI CA Summary of Governor Brown’s Proposed Budget

    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.

    Click here for NAMI California’s full summary of the Governor’s budget

  • 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.

    Click here to read the full report