• Team NAMI: Comfort at Home Challenge Launched

    We are all doing the best we can during this difficult time, and we have been inspired by seeing community members share activities and practices that are helping them cope while they’re staying home to protect the public health.

    Let’s inspire one another with images of what we’re doing to stay comforted at home! Join our #TeamNAMIComfortAtHome challenge by sharing photos that show what you and your family are doing to take care of your well-being, de-stress, or just unplug from the news for a while. It could be creating chalk art on sidewalks with your kids art, practicing yoga in your living room, jumping rope in the driveway, playing catch with your dog, weeding your garden, or FaceTiming a friend for a virtual coffee date. You get the idea! Tag us in photos of the activities or practices that are helping you feel better and we will share favorites. Use  #TeamNAMIComfortAtHome on your social media posts and tag us (and friends to spread the word!). Not a regular social media user? Submit them to us privately by filling out our online form.

  • California Health Corps to Fight COVID-19

    California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order to expand the health care workforce and staff to fight COVID-19 with the California Health Corps, a new major initiative that is calling for more medical personnel, which also includes behavioral health professionals (psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, LCSWs, LMFTs, LPCCs).

    “As we face the unprecedented public health crisis from COVID-19, we need to ensure that all Californians get the care they need, and that includes addressing the toll this is taking on those with mental health conditions or those who will face behavioral health challenges as a result,” said NAMI California’s CEO, Jessica Cruz. “We thank the Governor for including behavioral health in his plan to create Health Corps to help us address this crisis.” 

  • Family Guide: Helping Parents and Children During the COVID-19 Crisis

    It’s a stressful time for us all, and communicating scary news to kids is not easy. We have gathered good sources to help you communicate with children, support them, and manage stress and anxiety during these difficult and uncertain times.

  • Ways to Stay Connected During the COVID-19 Crisis

    Social distancing and being confined to home is challenging for many, especially those with mental health conditions. Many community members are expressing unease or anxiety about spending more time alone at home and away from others. It’s important that we do our best to take care of ourselves and check in on loved ones who might face mental health challenges during this time.

    To help you remain connected to your social network, here are some ideas: 

    Schedule regular calls with friends like you would schedule a work meeting. If you can, make them video calls, using FaceTime or Skype, Zoom, or other video-calling options. 

    Start a text or email chain with friends about good articles to read, videos to watch, podcasts to listen to, songs to listen to, etc.  

    Catch up with old friends by email, phone, or on social media platforms. 

    Play online games with friends using apps, such as Words with Friends. 

    Start up an impromptu virtual book club with a friend or group of friends, by starting to read the same book together, then check in to discuss it. 

    Start watching TV shows or movies at the same time with friends, then check in to discuss them. 

    Call or video-chat with friends while taking virtual tours together of museums, national parks, and more from Google Arts & Culture.

    Tune in to live-streamed concerts and other events. 

    Plan a virtual dinner party using FaceTime or a video-conferencing option.

    Friendly with your neighbors? Plan to meet up outside at a safe distance for daily check-ins.

    How are you staying connected? Share what you’re doing!

    More information and resources on the post we keep updated on COVID-19.

  • Message About COVID-10 from Our CEO, Jessica Cruz

    The COVID-19 public health crisis is unlike
    anything we have experienced before, and we hope you are taking care of
    yourselves and families.

    The news about COVID-19, social distancing, and quarantine is especially hard for those living with mental health conditions. We know first-hand how unsettling this is for so many in our communities.

    We also know that the necessary moves to temporarily halt the support groups, classes, and other services offered by our local NAMI California affiliates is a loss to those who count on this vital support from us. We are in touch with NAMI National and our local affiliates about other ways we can offer support, including virtual support groups. We hope to keep you posted with email and social media messages, and we also have a page on our website that we are keeping updated with the latest news, information and resources, including mental health guidance.

    As always, let’s all take steps to support one
    another and check in on our loved ones and neighbors while heeding the
    recommendations of our public health officials. Community love and support will
    help us through this uncertain and challenging time. We are stronger together. 

  • Postponed: Southern California Regional Multicultural Symposium and Youth Symposium

    After reviewing the state’s order and updated policy around COVID-19 issued by the California Department of Public Health, we are postponing the 2020 Southern California Regional Multicultural Symposium and Youth Symposium to later dates so we can ensure safety for all individuals.

    We will keep you updated on a new date when we can. Please email if you have any questions.

    If you are experiencing anxiety because of the COVID-19 pandemic or need any emotional support, please call the NAMI HelpLine at 800-950-6264.

    Thank you for your understanding and patience.

  • Coronavirus Updates: Mental Health Guidance, Public Health News and Resources

    We know many of our community members are concerned about the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We hope you are safe. To help, we have gathered updates, tips, and resources for you from reputable sources.

    Quick Tips

    • Stay informed, but consider limiting your news exposure; see our links to reputable sources for information below, including the CDC and California Department of Public Health; we will also keep this page updated with the latest information and additional resources as we get them.
    • Follow advice on prevention, including washing hands and refraining from touching your face, social distancing, and staying home if you are ill (more below).
    • Try to maintain perspective and rely on your social network for support (ways to stay connected, ways to manage stress and employ coping strategies). Know you are not alone and there is help if you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis.
      National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)
      Crisis Text Line: Text NAMI to 741-741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor to receive free, 24/7 crisis support via text message.
    • More support from NAMI

    Advice For Those With Mental Health Conditions

    If you or a loved one is living with a mental health condition, consider these tips from NAMI.

    • For anyone who is unsure about attending therapy sessions outside the home, especially those who the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has described as being at higher risk, you can ask your health care provider about tele-therapy or mental health services online.
    • For anyone who is worried about access to prescribed medications, you can ask your health care provider about getting 90-day supplies vs. a 60- or 30-day supply. If this is not possible, we encourage you to refill your medications as soon as they are allowed. Note: If healthcare providers deny/decline making accommodations, challenge the decisions at least three times. Decision-makers on making health plan adjustments may change if/as conditions worsen.)
    • Listen to and follow advice from your local public health care provider.
    • Provide self-care, especially if you are in the higher risk population as defined by the CDC. Pay attention to emerging symptoms. Reach out to family and friends.

    More Mental Health Resources

    Resources and FAQ on COVID-19 (NAMI)

    How to Protect Your Mental Health During the Coronavirus Outbreak (NAMI)

    Ways to Stay Connected While Social-Distancing (NAMI California)

    Coping with Stress During Infectious Disease Outbreaks (Los Angeles Department of Mental Health)

    Coping with Coronavirus Fears and Anxiety (UCLA Health)

    Coping with Anxiety Coronavirus in the Face of COVID-19 (Stanford University)

    Mental Health Considerations During COVID-19 Outbreak (World Health Organization)

    Taking Care of Your Behavioral Health: Tips for Social Distancing, Quarantine, and Isolation During an Infectious Disease Outbreak (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)

    Feeling Anxiety About Coronavirus? A Psychologist Offers Tips to Stay Clearheaded (University of California San Francisco)

    COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions about Behavioral Health (The California Department of Health Care Services)

    7 Science-Based Strategies to Cope with Coronavirus Anxiety (The Conversation)

    How to Deal with Coronavirus if You Have OCD or Anxiety (Vice)

    Mental health experts offer counsel on staying calm during coronavirus pandemic (Washington Post)

    Don’t Neglect Your Mental Health During this Pandemic (Washington Post)

    COVID-19 Information and Updates

    California Department of Health Updates (also En Español)

    State of California Updates

    Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Updates

    World Health Organization (WHO) Updates

    COVID-19 Prevention

    Preventing the Spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 in Homes and Residential Communities (CDC)

    12-second video showing the value of social distancing

    COVID-19 – Yes, Large Gathering Cancellations Are Good for Everyone (UC Davis Health)

    How canceled events and self-quarantines save lives, in one chart (Vox)

    Family and Community Resources

    Helping Parents and Children During the COVID-19 Crisis

    Ways to Stay Connected During the COVID-19 Crisis

    How to Manages Stress for Better Mental Health

  • Self-Care Guide

    Here are some NAMI suggestions for personalizing your self-care strategy.

    Understand How Stress Affects You

    Stress affects your entire body, physically as well as mentally. Some common physical signs of stress include:

    • Headaches
    • Low energy
    • Upset stomach, including diarrhea, constipation, and nausea
    • Aches, pains, and tense muscles
    • Insomnia

    Begin by identifying how stress feels to you. Then identify what events or situations cause you to feel that way. Once you know the types of situations that cause you stress, you can be prepared to avoid them or prepare for them.

    Protect Your Physical Health

    Improving your physical wellbeing is one of the most comprehensive ways you can support your mental health. You’ll have an easier time maintaining good mental habits when your body is a strong, resilient foundation.

    • Exercise daily. Exercise can take many forms, such as taking the stairs whenever possible, walking up escalators, and running and biking rather than driving. Joining a class may help you commit to a schedule, if that works best for you. Daily exercise naturally produces stress-relieving hormones in your body and improves your overall health.
    • Eat well. Eating mainly unprocessed foods like whole grains, vegetables, and fresh fruit is key to a healthy body. Eating this way can help lower your risk for chronic diseases, and help stabilize your energy levels and mood.
    • Get enough sleep. Adults generally need between seven and nine hours of sleep. A brief nap—up to 30 minutes—can help you feel alert again during the day. Even 15 minutes of daytime sleep is helpful. To make your nighttime sleep count more, practice good “sleep hygiene,” like avoiding using computers, TV and smartphones before bed. (Read more about getting good sleep.)
    • Avoid alcohol and drugs. They don’t actually reduce stress and often worsen it.
    • Practice relaxation exercises. Deep breathing, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation are easy, quick ways to reduce stress. These tools can help you feel less controlled by turbulent feelings and give you the space you need to think clearly about what to do next.

    Recharge Yourself

    Any amount of time you take for yourself is important. Start small: think about activities you enjoy and try to make time for them in your life. If you enjoy days out with friends, try to schedule a standing monthly lunch with them. When it becomes part of your routine, no one has to work extra to make it happen each month.

    The point is not what you do or how often you do it, but that you do take the time to care for yourself.

    Avoid Guilt

    Try not to feel bad about experiencing negative emotions. When you allow yourself to notice your feelings without judging them as good or bad, you dial down the stress and feel more in control. When you feel less stressed, you’re better able to thoughtfully choose how to act.

    Notice The Positive

    When you take the time to notice positive moments in your day, your experience of that day becomes better. Try writing down one thing each day or week that was good. Even if the positive thing is tiny (“It was a sunny day”), it’s real, it counts, and it can start to change your experience of life.

    Gather Strength From Others

    NAMI support groups exist to reassure you that countless other people have faced similar challenges and understand your concerns. Talking about your experiences can help. The idea that you can, or should be able to, “solve” things by yourself is false. Often the people who seem like they know how to do everything are actually frequently asking for help; being willing to accept help is a great life skill. If you’re having trouble keeping track of Medicaid documents and you’ve noticed your coworker is well-organized, ask them for tips about managing paperwork.

    You may feel you don’t have the time to stay in touch with friends or start new friendships. Focus on the long-term. If you can meet up with a friend once a month, or go to a community event at your local library once every two months, it still helps keep you connected. It also gives you the chance to connect with people on multiple levels.

  • Celebrating Women’s History Month

    At NAMI California, we are proud of the our diverse and dedicated staff, which includes leadership roles held by women. For Women’s History Month, we honor the sacrifices and courage of the trailblazers who came before us and took action to ensure that our voices are heard and space was made for as at the table. We carry on our work every day to fight for equality for our families and communities with appreciation for those who came before us. 

  • CEO Jessica Cruz Appointed to the California Health and Human Services Agency Behavioral Health Task Force

    Our CEO, Jessica Cruz, has been selected as a member of the California Health and Human Services Agency Behavioral Health Task Force.

  • What You Can Do to Support a Loved One With an Eating Disorder

    When a person becomes so preoccupied with food and weight issues that they find it harder and harder to focus on other aspects of their life, it may be an early sign of an eating disorder. Eating disorders are mental health conditions that can affect people of any age or gender, although rates for women are higher; symptoms commonly appear in adolescence and young adulthood. Without treatment, eating disorders can take over a person’s life and lead to serious, potentially fatal medical complications.

    Coping with an eating disorder isn’t easy for the person affected or family members and loved ones. Here are some suggestions from NAMI on how to help a loved one with an eating disorder. 

    Discuss your concerns. If you have concerns about a friend or family member and suspect an eating disorder may be the reason, learn about the different disorders, symptoms and warning signs. When you are knowledgeable, talking with them in a loving and non-confrontational way about your concerns is best. Tell the person you care.

    Suggest they see a doctor, counselor or other health professional. This may be tricky, as your loved one may not want to admit or even realize there is a problem, but sometimes seeing a professional who is knowledgeable about eating disorders is the first step in recovery.

    Avoid the traps. Conflicts and battles are hurtful. If a person is not ready to acknowledge a problem, you can be a supportive friend. Avoid placing blame, guilt, or shame on them about behaviors or attitudes related to the eating disorder. Remember that giving simple solutions minimizes the courage and strength a person needs to recover from an eating disorder.

    Be a good role model. Reflect on your attitudes and actions. Do you maintain sensible eating and exercise habits? Also, focus on the other person’s successes, accomplishments, or personality.

    Find emotional and professional support. Family support groups provide people with a chance to share thoughts, fears, and questions with other people who are in similar situations and understand. 

    Parents of children with eating disorders play a critical role; having a child with an eating disorder places significant responsibility on parents, making them active partners in treatment planning and implementation. Your family needs to feel comfortable and confident in the professional’s approach and abilities, and in discussing the disorder. Finding a mental health professional with experience treating young people or children with eating disorders and their families is important.

    NAMI offers NAMI Basics classes, and NAMI Family-to-Family programs; find your local NAMI California affiliate.

    More on the subject:

    Facts about eating disorders

    You Can’t Always See an Eating Disorder (NAMI blog post)

    Don’t Give Up Fighting (NAMI blog post)

    Have a story to share? Telling personal stories can be one of the most effective ways to diminish stigma and help individuals and families who are facing challenges related to mental illness.

  • Statement on Governor Newsom’s State of the State Address

    NAMI California CEO Jessica Cruz released this statement on Governor Gavin Newsom’s State of the State address today:

    “We applaud California Governor Gavin Newsom’s commitment to the issue of behavioral health and for making the homelessness crisis the focus of his State of the State address. ‘Doing nothing is no longer an option,’ he said. We agree. We need to ensure that our communities are safe and that there are housing options for all Californians. For this, we need reliable, sustainable funding for housing and for mental health services — at all levels. We also agree with the Governor’s statement that you cannot manage what you cannot measure. This is why NAMI California urges the Governor to consider the voices of families and consumers before any refocus of Prop 63 funds. To find real solutions to the complex issue, we are committed and eager to work with the Administration and all stakeholders on the review of the Mental Health Services Act. We are steadfast in our commitment to ensuring that those personally impacted by mental illness are at the forefront of this effort. Nothing about us without us.”

    The Governor’s full address

  • Show Your Love for Mental Health on Valentine’s Day

    Giving gifts to our loved ones on Valentine’s Day, whether it’s a significant other, child, or friend, can make a difference.

    If you’re shopping for your loved ones on Valentine’s Day and make purchases using Amazon Smile, a portion of your sales go to NAMI California. It’s just like shopping on Amazon, but you use this customized link and choose NAMI California as the charity of your choice.

    You can also purchase a gift card through GiftBar and a portion of proceeds will be donated to NAMI California.

    Finally, how about gifting a NAMI membership for a loved one?

  • Mental Health Challenges in African American Communities 

    While all of our communities face mental health challenges, African American communities often deal with more stigma and discrimination, and can receive compromised care.

  • New NAMI Cope Mental Health Program to Support California Police Officers

    We are excited to share news that we’re working with the State of California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) on a training program to provide police officers with mental health support.

    NAMI COPE is a resilience-building peer support program designed specifically for law enforcement, modeled on the NAMI Connection support group, a peer-led, 90-minute, weekly confidential support group for those experiencing mental health challenges. We will launch the program this year with the University of California, Davis (UCD) Police Department (PD) and the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) PD.

    “With rising suicide rates for police officers and nearly 500 Californians killed in officer-involved shootings (OISs) between 2016 and the present, the time is now to provide more support for law enforcement to protect their ranks and the general public,” said Jessica Cruz, our NAMI California CEO. “Studies show that stress impairs a person’s ability to regulate emotions and behaviors, and we know that the situational stress that law enforcement agents face regularly can have devastating effects on mental health. We are pleased to be working with law enforcement to create a peer support system to help officers.”

    We will begin training officers this year, with each receiving an estimated 8 hours of instruction. Plans include:

    • Designing a law enforcement-specific support group, NAMI COPE, in a culturally responsive way for police officers, and peer law enforcement facilitators.
    • Rolling out one statewide NAMI COPE training for police department representatives to coincide with NAMI California’s annual conference in Sacramento on June 2-3, 2020. Officers and police departments across the state are being invited, through such partners as the California Crisis Intervention Training Association and the California State Sheriffs’ Association.
    • Creating a NAMI COPE toolkit and distributing it to trained peers. This blueprint will have vetted resources and guidance to facilitate the launch of new wellness programs.

    Our COPE team includes our Cruz and Briana Vargas from our staff, as well as BART’S Deputy Chief Jeffrey Jennings in Professional Standards and Training and UCD’s head of training. There is also a COPE Advisory Committee, which includes NAMI CA Board members as chairs: Armando Sandoval, CIT Coordinator, a Community Outreach Liaison, BART PD; and Chief Joseph Farrow, UCI PD; a CA State Sheriffs’ Association representative will also be recruited.

  • POSTPONED -Upcoming Southern California Multicultural Regional Symposium: April 10 in Los Angeles

    UPDATE: After reviewing the state’s order and updated policy around COVID-19 issued by the California Department of Public Health, we are postponing the 2020 Southern California Regional Multicultural Symposium to a later date so we can ensure safety for all individuals. We will keep you updated on a new date when we can. Please email if you have any questions.

    Join us for our Southern California Multicultural Regional Symposium (event flier): Friday, April 10, 9 am to 4 pm, at Los Angeles City College (Student Union Multipurpose Room, 855 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles 90029).

    At this free event, we’re seeking to bridge the gaps created by mental health stigma by bringing together community leaders, providers, and peers from diverse communities to foster an open dialogue about the successes and challenges various communities have experienced.

    We look forward to highlighting innovative approaches to improving the mental health of diverse populations. Refreshments and lunch will be provided.

  • Postponed – Upcoming NAMI CA 2020 Youth Symposium: April 22 in Sacramento

    UPDATE: After reviewing the state’s order and updated policy around COVID-19 issued by the California Department of Public Health, we are postponing the Youth Symposium.

    NAMI CA is excited to announce the date and location for our second annual Youth Symposium: April 22, 2020 at the Sheraton Hotel in Sacramento, California.

    For the “Team NAMI: Building Leadership” symposium, our program will empower and provide a space for young people and educators to become informed about the importance of ending stigma and opening up the conversation about mental illness and mental health.

    Participants will learn about:

    • prevention and early intervention
    • career pathways in mental health
    • NAMI on Campus High School Club Program
    • best practices for stigma reduction

    We will also have youth speakers from across the state share personal stories about how they have taken stance to start the conversation around mental health awareness.

    Wednesday, April 22, 2020, 9 am to 3 pm

    Check-in and on-sight registration opens at 8 am

    Networking & refreshments: 8:30 to 9 am

    Program begins at 9 am

  • NAMI California Response to Governor Newsom’s 2020-2021 Budget

    Governor Gavin Newsom has released his most ambitious budget to date, showing that he and his Administration aim to make sweeping improvements to behavioral health across the state. 

    “We are happy to see a solid priority on mental health that focuses on a multi-pronged approach to solving a complex issue,” says CEO Jessica Cruz. “It is clear the Governor and his Administration are prioritizing mental health, from plans to establish a new ‘Behavioral Health Task Force’ and improve the enforcement of behavioral health parity laws, to investing in state hospitals and establishing a new ‘Healthcare Rights and Access Section’ at the California Department of Justice.”

    Several new behavioral health initiatives outlined in the budget include:

    • Establishing a new “Behavioral Health Task Force” at the California Health and Human Services Agency
    • Establishing a new “Behavioral Health Quality Improvement Program”
    • Strengthening and updating the California Department of Managed Health Care enforcement of behavioral health parity laws
    • Establishing a new “Healthcare Rights and Access Section” at the California Department of Justice
    • Proposing reforms to the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) to address spending for substance use disorder treatment, people with mental illness who are also experiencing homelessness or are involved in the criminal justice, and early intervention for youth

    Also in the works, investments are being made available for: 

    • State mental health hospitals
    • The Medi-Cal “Healthier California for All” Initiative [formerly named the California Advancing and Innovating Medi-Cal initiative (CalAIM)
    • New “Access to Housing and Services Fund” to tackle homelessness
    • State prison supports for behavioral health
    • Early childhood, student well-being, and addressing adverse childhood experiences
    • Making health care more affordable
    • Increases to the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) Program for aged, blind, and disabled individuals to remain safely in their homes rather than institutions
    • Nursing home reimbursement reform
    • Small increases to Supplemental Security Income (SSI)/State Supplementary Payment (SSP) benefits
    • Addressing individuals with both behavioral health and developmental disability needs
    • New State Department of Youth and Community Restoration

    We are looking forward to continuing to advocate for the family and individual’s voice in the development and implementation of these policies. We will work with the legislature, department of finance and state departments, including the Governor’s office, on being a part of the solution that is best for families across California.

    NAMI California Budget Review

    Our more comprehensive summary of the budget is below.

    The Big Picture

    The Governor’s Budget describes California’s economy as the
    strongest in the nation, which has contributed to fueling the nation’s economy.
    Despite the strong economy, low unemployment rate (3.9%) and healthy projected
    reserves ($18 billion in the Rainy Day Fund in 2020-21), Governor Newsom wants
    to ensure the state can weather a recession. In the immediate future, the
    Budget projects state revenue growth will slow over the next four years.

    Health is Prioritized in New Initiatives

    Governor Newsom and his Administration aim to improve behavioral health in California through varying complimentary approaches. The Governor’s Budget proposes the following new behavioral health initiatives:

    • Establish
      a new “Behavioral Health Task Force” at the California Health and Human
      Services Agency comprised of state agencies, counties, consumers, health plans,
      providers, and other stakeholders. According to the Governor’s Budget, the task
      force will “review existing policies and programs to improve the quality of
      care, and coordinate system transformation efforts to better prevent and
      respond to the impacts of mental illness and substance use disorders in
      California’s communities.”
    • Establish
      a new “Behavioral Health Quality Improvement Program” with $45.1 million
      General Fund in FY 2020-21 and $42 million General Fund in FY 2021-22. This
      would fund county-operated community mental health and substance use disorder
      systems to “incentivize system changes and process improvements that will help
      counties prepare for opportunities through the Medi-Cal Healthier California
      for All initiative. Improvements include enhanced data-sharing capability for
      care coordination and establishing the foundational elements of value-based
      payment such as data collection, performance measurement, and reporting. These
      core investments build off the $70 million in the 2019 Budget Act to provide
      value-based provider payments for services and projects focused on behavioral
      health integration.
    • Strengthen
      and update the California Department of Managed Health Care enforcement of
      behavioral health parity laws by working with health plans, providers, patient
      representatives, and others to address timely access to treatment, network
      adequacy, benefit design, and plan policies. The May Revise will include
      updates to this proposal.
    • Establish
      a new “Healthcare Rights and Access Section” at the California Department of
      Justice to consolidate and centralize and managing the increasing volume of
      healthcare litigation regarding the opioid crisis, drug price-fixing, antitrust
      cases, and defenses of the Affordable Care Act.
    • Propose
      reforms to the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) to address spending for
      substance use disorder treatment, people with mental illness who are also
      experiencing homelessness or are involved in the criminal justice, and early
      intervention for youth. The Budget reports that counties currently have
      slightly more than $500 million in local MHSA reserves, of which $161 million
      must be shifted to prevention and community services and supports by June 30,
      2020. The May Revise will include a proposal for proposed reforms.

    Medi-Cal “Healthier California for All” Initiative

    The Governor’s Budget provides new information and announcements about the “Medi-Cal Healthier California for All” initiative (formerly CalAIM, the California Advancing and Innovating Medi-Cal initiative). The Medi-Cal Healthier California for All initiative is intended to improve Medi-Cal beneficiaries’ clinical outcomes, assist beneficiaries with navigating the complex health system, and better coordinate between and integrate delivery systems. The initiative also builds upon recent Medi-Cal demonstration programs, including Whole Person Care pilots, the Coordinated Care Initiative, the Health Homes program, and public hospital system delivery transformation.

    To implement the Medi-Cal Healthier California for All
    initiative starting January 1, 2021, the Budget provides $348 million General
    Fund. The investment would grow to $695 million in FYs 2021-22 and 2022-23.
    These funds would be used for enhanced care management, in lieu of services,
    necessary infrastructure to expand whole person care approaches statewide, and
    to build upon various dental initiatives. Beginning in FY 2023-24, the
    Administration projects ongoing annual costs of $395 million. For additional
    information, please see my November 6, 2019 memo describing CalAIM components
    pertaining to behavioral health.

    Mental Health Hospitals

    The Department of State Hospitals (DSH) are proposed to
    receive $2 billion in 2020-21 and the patient population is expected to reach
    6,761 by the end of 2020-21. Select state hospital investments of interest
    proposed in the Budget include:

    • Establish
      a Community Care Collaborative Pilot Program to address the growing number of
      incompetent to stand trial (IST) commitments awaiting admission to the state
      hospital system. The number of ISTs with felony criminal charges awaiting state
      hospital admission was approximately 800 individuals in December 2019. The
      pilot program would receive $24.6 million General Fund in FY 2020-21 for a
      six-year pilot to incentivize three counties to treat and serve individuals
      deemed IST in the community. Over six years, the cost of the pilot program is
      estimated to be $364.2 million General Fund;
    • Expand
      the existing Jail-Based Competency Treatment program to eight additional
      counties with $8.9 million General Fund in 2020-21 and $11.2 million General
      Fund annually thereafter; and
    • Improve
      clinical care through $32 million General Fund and 80 positions for the first
      year of a five-year effort to standardize clinician-to-patient ratios, improve
      patient outcomes, shorten lengths of stay, reduce patient violence and staff injuries,
      implement trauma-informed care, and develop of a comprehensive discharge
      planning program.

    “Access to Housing and Services Fund” to Tackle Homelessness

    According to the Budget, the Administration proposes a
    “radical shift in the state’s involvement to augment local governments’ efforts
    to shelter the many unsheltered persons living in California, by

    launching a new state fund for developing additional
    affordable housing units, supplementing and augmenting rental and operating
    subsidies, and stabilizing board and care homes.

    The Budget would establish a new “Access to Housing and
    Services Fund” (administered by the California Department of Social Services)
    with $750 million General Fund to move individuals and families into stable
    housing, and to increase the number of units available as a stable housing
    option for individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of becoming
    homeless. The funds would be provided under contract with regional
    administrators and would be used to:

    • Provide
      short- and long-term rental subsidies;
    • Make
      small and medium-sized contributions to encourage development of new units in
      exchange for a rental credit;
    •  Stabilize board and care
      facilities by funding capital projects and/or operating subsidies;
    • Engage
      with landlords to secure units and negotiate individual client leases;
    • Provide tenancy support services;
    • Coordinate
      case management with counties for those receiving rental subsidies to ensure
      they are enrolled in eligible public assistance programs; and
    • Enable
      regional partners to pool federal, state, local, and private funds to stabilize
      the housing circumstances of the state’s most vulnerable populations.

    Prison Supports for Behavioral Health

    The Budget provides resource to the California Department of
    Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) for a variety of efforts to address
    behavioral health needs of individuals in its care. The average daily adult
    inmate population is now projected to be 124,655 in 2019-20, and an average
    daily adult parolee population of 50,442. Budget proposals of interest include:

    • Expand
      telepsychiatry to increase inmate access to mental health care services ($5.9
    • Expand
      inmate visitation at nine CDCR institutions to establish and maintain a
      continuum of social support, including parent-child relationships, which are
      critical for successful reentry ($4.6 million General Fund);
    • Retrofit
      64 cells for inmates entering segregated housing at institutions around the
      state to prevent suicide ($3.8 million);
    • Maintain
      mental health, medical, and dental care services programs ($3.6 billion);
    • Support
      an electronic health care data exchange process to transfer health records to
      counties for inmates who are transitioning to county custody or the community

    Childhood, Student Well-Being, and Addressing Adverse Childhood Experiences

    According to the Budget, “Providing children in California
    with a healthy start is one of the best investments the state can make. A
    growing body of research points to the link between early

    childhood interventions and improved outcomes years or even
    decades into the future, including higher education levels, better health, and
    stronger career opportunities.” Specific investments of interest include:

    • $10
      million for the development of an adverse childhood experiences (ACES)
      cross-sector training program that will be accredited by the Office of the
      Surgeon General, as well as a statewide ACES public awareness campaign;
    • $300
      million for the development of innovative community school models that support
      student mental health in public schools;
    • $350
      million to augment Educator Workforce Investment Grants for local educational
      agencies to train school teachers and paraprofessionals on a host of issues,
      including multi-tiered systems of support and mental health interventions:
      social-emotional learning and restorative practices; non-discrimination,
      anti-bullying, and affirmative supports for LGBTQ and other marginalized
    • $18
      million for the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence to bolster
      awareness of available services and supports for all local educational agencies
      in the topics listed above.

    Additionally, to improve local educational agencies’ ability
    to effectively support students with

    Disabilities and identify best practices, the Administration
    and Legislature engaged with researchers and collaborated with stakeholders.
    Among their findings are that “Needs associated with student mental health and
    social-emotional issues are becoming more prevalent.” In response, the Budget
    proposes a three-phase, multi-year process to improve special education
    finance, services, and student outcomes. This process will finalize a new
    special education funding formula to support equity, more inclusive practices,
    and early intervention services; improve family and student engagement,
    including whole-child and family wrap-around services; and refining funding,
    accountability, and service delivery for specialized services, such as
    out-of-home placements, non-public school placements.

    Health Care More Affordable

    Governor Newsom reports his Administration will pursue new
    initiatives this year to make health care more affordable. For example, he
    proposes to increase transparency in the price for health care, address
    hospitals’ costs on a regional basis, increase use of technology, and expand
    value-based reimbursements. Additionally, the Budget seeks to reduce
    prescription drug costs by expanding the state’s ability to consider the best
    prices offered by manufacturers internationally, negotiating additional
    supplemental rebates, and increasing the state’s purchasing program to further
    consolidate the state’s purchasing power. The Governor plans to propose a
    single market for drug pricing within the state and the state’s own generic
    drug label, as well as to establish a new “Office of Health Care Affordability.”
    Additionally, to strengthen California’s public option for health plan
    selection, the Administration plans to “leverage” Covered California (the
    health care exchange) and Medi-Cal. The California Health and Human Services
    Agency plans to identify options that would address enrollment, affordability,
    and choice through Covered California, as well as utilize existing Medi-Cal
    managed care plans.

    to the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) Program

    The IHSS program is a Medicaid entitlement that provides
    domestic and related services to enable aged, blind, and disabled individuals
    to remain safely in their homes rather than institutions. The Governor’s Budget
    includes $5.2 billion General Fund for IHSS in FY 2020-21, representing a 16%
    increase from 2019-20. The Budget estimates that over half a million (586,000)
    Californians will receive IHSS services in FY 2020-21. Additionally, the Budget
    provides $523.8 million General Fund to provide planned minimum wage increases
    to IHSS works ($13 per hour on January 1, 2020, $14 per hour on January 1,

    The Budget also provides $1.9 million General Fund in 2020-21
    to providing additional training to county social workers and managers in
    conducting needs assessments for IHSS recipients, with the goal of improving
    consistency across counties in implementing IHSS program requirements.

    Home Reimbursement Reform

    Currently, the state provides annual cost-based increases and
    quality incentive payments to all skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) that are
    partly funded by facilities paying a fee of 6% of their revenue. These fees are
    then used as state match to draw down federal Medicaid reimbursement for SNF
    services to Medi-Cal beneficiaries. This type of arrangement began in 2004, but
    sunsets July 31, 2020. The Governor proposes to reform SNF reimbursement to a
    cost-based methodology that could better incentivize value and quality.

    It is important to note that this funding arrangement does
    not include SNFs that are considered Institutions for Mental Disease (IMDs), as
    SNF-IMDs are ineligible for federal Medicaid reimbursement. As such, county
    mental health departments utilize 1991 Realignment Mental Health revenues to
    cover the full costs of SNF-IMDs. Under current law, counties must pay SNF-IMDs
    an annual 3.5% rate increase.

    Increases to Supplemental Security Income (SSI)/State Supplementary Payment
    (SSP) Benefits Starting Next Year

    As described in the Budget, the federal SSI program “provides
    a monthly cash benefit to eligible aged, blind, and disabled persons who meet
    the program’s income and resource requirements. In California, the SSI payment
    is augmented with an SSP grant. These cash grants assist recipients with basic
    needs and living expenses…The state-only Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants
    (CAPI) provides monthly cash benefits to aged, blind, and disabled legal noncitizens
    who are ineligible for SSI/SSP due solely to their immigration status.” Due to
    a 1.7% increase in the Consumer Price Index, the maximum SSI/SSP monthly grant
    levels will increase January 1, 2021 by approximately $13 for individuals and
    $20 for couples. The Budget provides $2.6 billion General Fund in FY 2020-21
    for the SSI/SSP program (a 1.6% decrease from the current year due to lower
    caseload projections). Current maximum SSI/SSP grant levels are $943 per month
    for individuals and $1,583 per month for couples.

    Individuals with Both Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Needs

    According to the Budget, the composition of regional center
    consumers living with developmental disabilities has significantly changed over
    the past decade. Specifically, behavioral health needs among regional center
    consumers have grown by 48%. The Budget includes $2.6 million General Fund for
    “Systemic, Therapeutic, Assessment, Resources and Treatment Training” on
    person-centered, trauma-informed, and evidence-based support services for
    individuals with co-occurring developmental disabilities and mental health

    State Department of Youth and Community Restoration

    The 2019 Budget transitioned the Division of Juvenile Justice
    at the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to the Health and
    Human Services Agency as an independent department, effective July 1, 2020. The
    Governor’s 2020-21 Budget includes additional resources to establish the
    division as a new “Department of Youth and Community Restoration.” The new
    department will consist of over 1,400 personnel and would be supported by
    $260.8 million General Fund in 2020-21. According to the budget, this
    transition “aligns with the rehabilitative mission and core values of the
    Agency by providing trauma-informed and developmentally appropriate services to
    youth in California’s state juvenile justice system. This transition will
    improve the state’s ability to provide youth in the juvenile justice system
    with the services necessary to return safely to the community and become
    responsible and successful adults.” Funds provided to the new Department of
    Youth and Community Restoration would be used to establish a new training
    academy, as well as to continue support for “therapeutic communities” for
    offenders under age 26 who reside in a campus-style environment. A model
    program will be established at Valley State Prison in Chowchilla.

  • Family & Peer Support Specialist Online Training Starts Feb. 4

    Do you have lived experience with a mental health condition? Are you a family member with a loved one with mental illness? Train to become a Family & Peer specialist to receive certification from NAMI California and the California Office of State Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) for work in the behavioral health field.

    Become certified to be a family and peer specialist with our web-based training. All sessions are guided by trained presenters and offer opportunities for participant interaction as you learn about the recovery model, communication skills, trauma-informed care, and more. The program provides health educational training, one-on-one career counseling, and support to volunteer or work in the behavioral health field.

    The 10-week course is web-based and is run on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, 6 to 8:30 pm, from February 4 to April 7. If you have questions, email

  • Response to News: State Funding for Homelessness

    With funding for mental health and homelessness being evaluated by lawmakers, NAMI California is urging Governor Gavin Newsom to consider the voices of those most impacted by the crisis. Statement from NAMI California CEO Jessica Cruz, in response to the news reports of the Governor’s proposal to allocate state funds and review Prop 63 (the Mental Health Services Act).

    “We applaud statewide efforts to take on the homelessness crisis and urge the Governor to include us in any conversations about families and individuals impacted by mental illness. As the state’s leading grassroots organization working with Californians facing mental health challenges, we know firsthand that stakeholder involvement is necessary to ensure better outcomes for all of our communities. In order to make real progress, we need to hear the voices of family members and individuals. Nothing about us without us.” 

  • Community Input: Our 2019-2020 Surveys

    We are excited to invite you to share your insights for our 2019-2020 stakeholder surveys for Diverse Communities and Families. Your anonymous responses will be incorporated into the Annual State of the Community Report on Families & Diverse Communities, created to reach and improve the experiences of diverse communities and family members of loved ones within the mental health care system.

    Survey for Families

    Are you a family member or loved one of an individual with a mental health condition or someone with experience accessing services in the mental health care system? Share your thoughts on:

    • The mental health care system
    • Support
    • Early intervention
    • Family participation

    Survey for Diverse Communities

    Are you an individual with lived experience in the mental health care system who identifies as part of a diverse community (refugee, LGBTQ, veteran, Native American, etc.)? Share your thoughts on:

    • The mental health care system
    • Discrimination
    • Support
    • Community participation

    NAMI California is grateful in advance for the support, advocacy, and participation from community and family members whose voices will be shared throughout our next report. We also appreciate all NAMI affiliates, members, and partner organizations for their efforts and care.

  • Event Alert: Unite for Change: California

    NAMI California is proud to be on the host committee for “Unite for Change: California,” on Monday, January 13 in Los Angeles.

    The event is part of a national campaign to bring communities together in a discussion about solutions to the most pressing issues of mental illness and addiction. This event, featuring a town hall with former U.S. Representative Patrick J. Kennedy and other national and local advocates, will provide the tools, training, and education to be an effective voice for these issues throughout the 2020 election. We hope you will join us!

    Event details:

    Monday, January 13, 2019 | 5:30 PM PT

    Bovard Auditorium at the University of Southern California

    3551 Trousdale Parkway, Los Angeles, CA 90089

  • 2019-2020 Stakeholder Surveys for Diverse Communities & Families 

    You can help us improve mental health care in California by taking our annual survey!

    We are seeking to understand the experiences of individuals, families, and diverse communities navigating the disparities in the public mental health system. This is your chance to share your experiences on accessing mental health care and make suggestions for what needs to be improved, which we will use for the NAMI California Annual State of the Community Reports. The surveys are available in English, Spanish, Chinese (simplified), and Arabic.

    Diverse Communities Survey

    Families Survey

  • Guide to Making New Year’s Resolutions

    Making new year’s resolutions?  

    Efforts we make to better ourselves are always to be encouraged — any day of the year. But we know from experience that broken resolutions can make us feel discouraged. 

    Here are a few things to consider: 

    Focus on the positive, with realistic resolutions aimed to bolster your own personal strengths

    Count on the support of family members and friends.

    Be specific and make plans to achieve your goals.

    Accept that there will be bad days, but know that every day is a new opportunity to make positive changes in your life.

    Remember that making resolutions is optional.

    Be kind to yourself. All progress is good progress.

  • Special Holiday Schedule

    The NAMI California office will be closed December 23 to January 6. Find emergency numbers and more help from our resources page.

  • Shop Once, Give Twice

    We hope you’re enjoying the season of giving with your loved ones.
    While the end of the holiday season is quickly approaching, there is still time to make a difference — at no cost to you!

    When you make purchases on Amazon Smile, a portion of sales will be donated to NAMI California. It’s just like shopping on Amazon, but you use login using this customized link and choose NAMI California as the charity of your choice.

    By taking this one small step, you can finish your holiday shopping and Amazon Smile will donate to NAMI California.

  • Help, Hope, Home

    The comfort and shelter of home is something we do not take for granted. At NAMI California, we strive to provide help and hope for families impacted by mental health conditions across the Golden State. …

  • 3-Digit Suicide and Crisis Line Proposal Approved by the FCC

    The FCC unanimously approved the proposal for new 3-digit number as Suicide Prevention Hotline.

    This is a great first step — and now Congress must act to help make 9-8-8 a reality. Here’s how you can help make a difference:

    Contact your Senators, urging them to support this.

    Contact your your U.S. Representative, urging them to support this.

  • 2018-2019 Annual State of the Community Reports

    We are excited to share NAMI California’s Year 2 (2018-2019) Annual State of the Community Reports (ASOCR) on Diverse Communities & Families.

    reports highlight the demographics, and unique barriers, needs, and
    recommendations while accessing the mental health care system of California’s
    families and diverse communities (Latinos/Hispanics, Asian/Asian
    American/Pacific Islanders, African Americans/Blacks, Native American/American
    Indians, TAY and LGBTQI). For our work on this, we continued to seek a better understanding
    of the unique needs of each stakeholder group and we dived deeper into the
    implications of findings throughout NAMI CA programming, advocacy, and
    community engagement.

    Community-Informed Recommendations

    reach underrepresented individuals affected by mental illness, we need more:

    • stigma reduction
    • promotion of education on mental illness
    • efforts to incorporate prevention and early interventions programs and models
    • funding for culturally appropriate outreach and services
    • efforts to engage diverse communities in advocacy efforts for structural change

    Read the summary of our report on diverse communities.


    address the needs of family members and loved ones supporting individuals with
    mental illness, we need to:

    • enhance
      access to treatment in a timely manner
    • advocate
      and promote availability of housing options
    • support
      the progress of crisis services
    • improve
      the criminal justice and forensic system during the treatment of all people
      with mental illnesses
    • advocate
      for family involvement in treatment
    • promote
      complete and comprehensive services for all ages are all ways

    NAMI California truly appreciates the support, advocacy, and partnerships with NAMI affiliates, advisory committees, partnering organizations, and especially the community and family members whose voices were shared throughout the report. Many thanks also to the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission (MHSOAC) through the Mental Health Serves Act (MHSA).

    Read the Families Report or our summary.

  • Maintaining Mental Health During the Holiday Season

    The holidays can be a joy-filled season, but they can be challenging for those impacted by mental illness. A NAMI study showed that 64% of people with mental illness report holidays make their conditions worse. “For many people the holiday season is not always the most wonderful time of the year,” said NAMI medical director Ken Duckworth. For individuals and families coping with mental health challenges, the holiday season can be a lonely or stressful time, filled with anxiety and/or depression.

    If you’re living with a mental health condition, stress can also contribute to worsening symptoms. Examples: in schizophrenia, it can encourage hallucinations and delusions; in bipolar disorder, it can trigger episodes of both mania and depression.

    Here are some suggestions for how you can reduce stress and maintain good mental health during the holiday season:

    • Accept your needs. Be kind to yourself! Put your own mental and physical well-being first. Recognize what your triggers are. Is going to a holiday party too stressful for you? What situations make you feel physically and mentally agitated? Once you know this, you can avoid them when it’s reasonable to, and to cope when you can’t.
    • Write a gratitude list and offer thanks. As we end the year, it’s a good time to reflect back on what you are grateful for, then thank those who have supported you. Even if you’ve had a challenging year, there is likely something or someone for whom you are grateful.
    • Manage your time and don’t try to do too much. Prioritizing your activities can help you use your time well. Making a day-to-day schedule helps ensure you don’t feel overwhelmed by everyday tasks and deadlines. It’s okay to say no to plans that don’t fit into your schedule or make you feel good.
    • Be realistic. The happy lives of the people on those holiday commercials are fictional. We all have struggles one time or another and it’s not realistic to expect otherwise. Sometimes, it’s simply not possible to find the perfect gift or have a peaceful time with family.
    • Set boundaries. Family dynamics can be complex. Acknowledge them and accept that you can only control your role. If you need to, find ways to limit your exposure.
    • Practice relaxation. Deep breathing, meditation and progressive muscle relaxation are good ways to calm yourself. Taking a break to refocus can have benefits beyond the immediate moment.
    • Exercise daily. Schedule time to walk outside, bike or join a dance class. Whatever you do, make sure it’s fun. Daily exercise naturally produces stress-relieving hormones in your body and improves your overall physical health.
    • Set aside time for yourself. Schedule something that makes you feel good. It might be reading a book, going to the movies, getting a massage, listening to music you love, or taking your dog for a walk.
    • Eat well. With dinners, parties, and cookie trays at every turn, our eating habits are challenged during the holiday season. Try to maintain a healthy diet through it all. Eating unprocessed foods, like whole grains, vegetables, and fresh fruit is the foundation for a healthy body and mind. Eating well can also help stabilize your mood.
    • Get enough sleep. Symptoms of some mental health conditions, like mania in bipolar disorder, can be triggered by getting too little sleep.
    • Avoid alcohol and drugs. They don’t actually reduce stress: in fact, they often worsen it. If you’re struggling with substance abuse, educate yourself and get help. It’s okay to leave the party early or skip it in favor or quiet time with a friend or alone time to recharge.
    • Spend time in nature. Studies show that time in nature reduces stress. (More on the mental health benefits of nature.) Need to break away from family during a holiday gathering? Talk a walk in a local park.
    • Volunteer. The act of volunteering can provide a great source of comfort. By helping people who are not as fortunate, you can also feel less lonely or isolated and more connected to your community.
    • Find support. Whether it’s with friends, family, a counselor or a support group, airing out and talking can help. Consider attending a free support group provided by your local NAMI California affiliate.
    • Seek therapy. If the steps you’ve taken aren’t working, it may be time to share with your mental health professional. They can help you pinpoint specific events that trigger you and help you create an action plan to change them.

    More on the subject:

    Mental Health and the Holiday Blues (NAMI)

    Beat Back the Holiday Blues (NAMI)

    9 Keys to a Resilient Holiday (Psychology Today)

  • Community Opportunity: Hearing in Sacramento Dec. 9

    NAMI California is looking for interested individuals to join us in attending an informational hearing on the Mental Health Services Act (Prop 63) on Monday, December 9 at the California State Capitol in Sacramento.

    Conversations are ongoing around the use of MHSA funds, as we’ve seen with the multitude of legislative proposals attempting to amend the Act. We are asking community members to come out and share their lived experience. Has Prop. 63 impacted you and your family? We hope you will join us in helping to protect Prop. 63 and future MHSA allocations. 

    Date and Time: Monday, December 9, 2019, 1-4 pm

    Location: State Capitol Building, Sacramento, CA (Room 437)

    Topic: Informational hearing on mental health funding, with a focus on the future of Prop 63

    A limited amount of travel reimbursements will be provided to those that attend and express need. We are hoping for a large turnout, but if you are unable to attend in person, there will be a livestream.

    For questions, or to let us know you plan to attend, e-mail

  • Giving Tuesday 2019

    This Giving Tuesday (Tuesday, December 3), let’s make it personal. As we enter the season of giving and gather with our families and loved ones to give thanks and gifts, we ask that you consider supporting our efforts to improve mental health care and services in California.

    Give to NAMI California on behalf of someone you care about, whether it’s a family member, a peer, a friend, a co-worker, a neighbor, or a community member. Think of it as putting us on your gift list and then checking it off on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, when people across the globe make donations to their favorite nonprofit organizations.

    Each gift we receive for Giving Tuesday will support our ongoing work to help individuals, families, and communities living with mental health challenges in California.

    You can make a donation for someone you love in any amount to help make a difference. If you give a major gift of $500 or more, you can contribute to our Tree of Tribute and we will create an engraved leaf or precious stone at the base: Bronze leaf ($500); Silver leaf ($1,000); Gold leaf ($2,000); Small stone ($3,000); Large stone ($5,000). Each leaf or stone has a story of triumph and inspiration behind it, which empowers all of us and commemorates our success in delivering the NAMI California vision and mission.

  • NAMI California Response: Santa Clarita School Shooting

    We are deeply saddened to hear about news of a school shooting in Santa Clarita. Whenever we hear about another tragedy involving gun violence, we grieve along with our fellow citizens and community members impacted by it.

    NAMI California supports all of our communities. There is help and hope for those impacted. Our San Fernando Valley NAMI California affiliate offers support groups and other services. 

    NAMI sees gun violence as a national public health crisis that impacts everyone. We need to be careful that the response to these tragedies does not discourage people with mental health conditions from seeking treatment. Stigma far too often prevents people from getting the help they so desperately need. 

    Every time we experience a tragedy involving guns, people with mental illness are drawn into the conversation. Find out more on the subject of gun violence and mental health.

  • California Advancing and Innovating Medi-Cal (CalAIM): Behavioral Health Proposals

    NAMI California is proud to be collaborating with other state health leaders for California Advancing and Innovating Medi-Cal (CalAIM), a multi-year initiative for California’s Medi-Cal program, sponsored by the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS).

    With the state’s current Section 1115 and 1915(b) waivers expiring in 2020, DHCS developed the CalAIM initiative to set the course for a broader Medi-Cal delivery system.

    Workgroup discussions are taking place between November 2019 and February 2020, and our CEO, Jessica Cruz, is on the Behavioral Health Workgroup as a committee member.

    The primary goals of CalAIM are to identify and manage member risk and need through Whole Person Care approaches and addressing Social Determinants of Health; move Medi-Cal to a more consistent and seamless system by reducing complexity and increasing flexibility; and improve quality outcomes and drive delivery system transformation through value-based initiatives, modernization of systems and payment reform. 

    On October 29, 2019, DHCS released its initial CalAIM proposal, which was presented to the DHCS Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC) and Behavioral Health Stakeholder Advisory Committee (BH-SAC). DHCS intends to conduct extensive stakeholder engagement for both CalAIM and the renewal of the California’s Section 1115 and 1915(b) waivers. 

     According to DHCS, the CalAIM behavioral health proposals are intended to invest in and improve access to mental health (MH) and substance use disorder (SUD) services for Medi-Cal beneficiaries, as well as improve health outcomes and coordination across delivery systems. DHCS is exploring four (4) key behavioral health proposals as part of the CalAIM initiative, which are detailed in our summary.

  • Event Summary: Yolo Regional Advocacy Meeting

    We held a productive and inspired Regional Advocacy Meeting with NAMI Yolo County, UC Davis, and community members on Friday, November 8 at UC Davis.

    Mental health advocates from Yolo County, Sacramento County, Solano, County, and Amador County joined us for the event to hear from local speakers and participate in breakout sessions.

    Speakers included Maggie Fry, Program Director, NAMI Yolo County; James C. Glica-Hernandez, Chair, Yolo County, Local Mental Health Board; Karen Larsen, Director, Yolo County, Health & Human Services Agency; and NAMI California’s Advocacy Coordinator, Avery Hulog-Vicente.

    For the collaborative breakout sessions, we discussed what’s working well and what can be improved. Read a summary of the discussions.


  • How to Manage Stress for Better Mental Health

    There’s no way around it: we all experience stress.

    It’s not all bad. During times when we need to protect ourselves, the body’s stress response can help keep us safe. But when stress is frequent and intense, it can strain your body and make it impossible to function. Finding effective ways to deal is crucial to living well.

    If you’re feeling stressed, you can experience a myriad of symptoms, including headaches, jaw pain or mood swings; changes in appetite, trouble sleeping or concentrating; or feel overwhelmed. When experiencing long-term stress, your brain is exposed to increased levels of a hormone called cortisol. This exposure weakens your immune system, making it easier for you to get sick.

    If you’re living with a mental health condition, stress can also contribute to worsening symptoms. Examples: in schizophrenia, it can encourage hallucinations and delusions; in bipolar disorder, it can trigger episodes of both mania and depression.

    Here are some suggestions for how you can reduce stress in your life:

    • Accept your needs. Recognize what your triggers are. What situations make you feel physically and mentally agitated? Once you know this, you can avoid them when it’s reasonable to, and to cope when you can’t.
    • Manage your time. Prioritizing your activities can help you use your time well. Making a day-to-day schedule helps ensure you don’t feel overwhelmed by everyday tasks and deadlines.
    • Practice relaxation. Deep breathing, meditation and progressive muscle relaxation are good ways to calm yourself. Taking a break to refocus can have benefits beyond the immediate moment.
    • Exercise daily. Schedule time to walk outside, bike or join a dance class. Whatever you do, make sure it’s fun. Daily exercise naturally produces stress-relieving hormones in your body and improves your overall physical health.
    • Set aside time for yourself. Schedule something that makes you feel good. It might be reading a book, going to the movies, getting a massage or taking your dog for a walk.
    • Eat well. Eating unprocessed foods, like whole grains, vegetables, and fresh fruit is the foundation for a healthy body and mind. Eating well can also help stabilize your mood.
    • Get enough sleep. Symptoms of some mental health conditions, like mania in bipolar disorder, can be triggered by getting too little sleep.
    • Avoid alcohol and drugs. They don’t actually reduce stress: in fact, they often worsen it. If you’re struggling with substance abuse, educate yourself and get help.
    • Spend time in nature. Studies show that time in nature reduces stress. (More on the mental health benefits of nature.)
    • Find support. Whether it’s with friends, family, a counselor or a support group, airing out and talking can help. Consider attending a free support group provided by your local NAMI California affiliate. (Note: during the COVID-19 crisis, support groups are not being held in person and many affiliates are trying to offer virtual support with calls or video-conferencing options. If you have a friend from a support group, consider reaching out to get and offer support by phone. If you are experiencing a crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text NAMI to 741-741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor to receive free, 24/7 crisis support via text message.)
    • Seek therapy. If the steps you’ve taken aren’t working, it may be time to share with your mental health professional. He or she can help you pinpoint specific events that trigger you and help you create an action plan to change them.

    More from NAMI National.

  • Native American Heritage Month

    Commemorates the return after four years of captivity (1864-1868) when 7,000 Navajo were imprisoned; after their release along the river Puerco, the city of Gallup was founded in 1881 in what is now a defined reservation. Wikimedia Commons

    November marks National Native American Heritage Month. We celebrate the diverse and rich culture, history, and traditions of our nation’s first people; their pictures, words, names, and stories are integral in American cultural history. During this time, we have the chance to educate ourselves and others about the nations and to raise awareness about the struggles native people have faced in the past and continue to face in the present.

    I believe much trouble would be saved if we opened our hearts more.

    — Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt, known as Chief Joseph, leader of the Wal-lam-wat-kain, Nez Perce

    More on Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt

    Find out more about National Native American Heritage Month

    Mental Health in Native American Communities

    There have not been many studies about Native American attitudes regarding mental health and mental illness. There is a general Native American worldview that encompasses the notions of connectedness, reciprocity, balance, and completeness that frames their views of health and well-being.

    Source: Mental Health America

    In 2010, the American Psychiatric Association found Native Americans experience serious psychological distress 1.5 times more than the general population.

    Research has found that Native American men and women who meet the criteria for depression, anxiety, or substance abuse disorders are significantly more likely to seek help from a spiritual healer than from specialty or other medical sources.

    Community Voices: Sharing Native American Insights and Stories

    Are you a community member from a Native American community that has been impacted by mental illness? Our Represent Recovery Program aims to elevate the voices of those from underserved communities, as well as to provide resources. 

  • Better Sleep to Maintain Mental Health

    Adults generally need between seven and nine hours of sleep. About 1 in 3 people in the U.S. report difficulty sleeping at least one night per week. Insomnia is caused by difficulty falling or staying asleep, or waking up too early in the morning. Sleep deprivation is known to adversely affect mental health, so it’s best to take efforts to improve or maintain good sleep. Here are some tips for getting better sleep.

    Stick to a schedule. Aim to develop a regular sleep schedule and go to bed the same time every night.

    Prepare for bedtime. Avoid stimulating activities such as exercise before bedtime or consuming caffeine or sugar. Also, shut down electronic, screened devices at least a half-hour before you plan to sleep, as the blue light they emit stimulates the brain.

    Create a comfortable sleep environment. Is your bedroom cool and dark? Are your bed and pillow comfortable? Try to create an oasis that feels comfortable and cozy, so that getting into bed feels welcoming.

    Employ relaxation techniques. Deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, body scan meditation, and mindfulness can help calm individuals and decrease anxiety about going to sleep.

    Exercise. Studies show that exercise is associated with improved sleep quality. Talk with your health care provider about the kind of exercise that will work for you.

    Try therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help you control or eliminate negative thoughts and worries that keep you awake.

    Find time to nap. A brief nap—up to 30 minutes—can help you feel alert again during the day. Even 15 minutes of daytime sleep is helpful.

    Don’t fight sleeplessness. If you wake up and find you cannot fall back asleep, try getting up to reading a book or listen to music, instead of tossing and turning.

    Talk to your doctor about medication and herbal remedies. If you suffer from insomnia, talk to your health care provider about medications and herbal remedies. Doctors don’t generally recommend staying on medication for more than a few weeks for insomnia, but there are a few medications that have been approved for longer term use. The effectiveness of natural remedies, including melatonin and valerian root, have not been proven for most people, and neither treatment has been approved by the FDA. Also, avoid mixing drugs and alcohol with prescribed medications.

    More on the Subject

    “Sleep Tips That Can Help with Depression” (NAMI National blog)

    Find more information on sleep and mental health from NAMI National.

  • 2019 NAMI California Legislative Wrap-Up

    It’s the end of the 2019 legislative season and we have our annual wrap-up.

    Our NAMI California end-of-season report (PDF) includes updates on the bills we supported, as well as other relevant ones. There were victories and disappointments and all of it has motivated us for the next session.

    Find our more about our advocacy efforts.

  • 2019 NAMI CA MHSA County Programs Report Published

    By Marcel Harris, NAMI California Advocacy Manager

    I’m excited to share that our 2019 NAMI CA MHSA County Programs Report is published. NAMI California is grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with local County Behavioral Health Directors and MHSA staff on this year’s report, “Collaboration Improving Lives & Giving Hope,” which outlines the various community-based mental health services funded by the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA). MHSA is the initiative measure passed by California voters as Proposition 63 in 2004 that imposes a 1% tax on incomes that exceed $1,000,000 and requires that the revenue from that tax be deposited in the Mental Health Services Fund in support of county mental health programs. 

    To obtain data for the 2019 MHSA report, NAMI California contacted each of the 59 County Behavioral Health Departments in early spring, asking the departments to provide information on community-based mental health services they funded. Our annual report can be used to bolster future MHSA plans and identify future collaboration opportunities. Our intention is for this report to be used in strengthening community partnerships in the shift towards recovery-oriented mental health services. 

    While this report is primarily a directory for those seeking services in their county, it can also be used to increase access and advocate for expansion of mental health services. We know we need to develop better local mental health plans that address gaps in service and we need to sustain and increase robust stakeholder engagements in order to do this. Given recent changes to MHSA (SB 389), it is imperative stakeholders actively engage with the local planning process and help shape future mental health services, programs and supports and leverage resources to meet gaps in care.

    MHSA was intended to transform the public mental health system, not only through the generation of new revenue to fund the expansion of services, but also by requiring ongoing stakeholder input and involvement at all levels of public mental health policy, program planning, implementation, monitoring, quality improvement, evaluation, and budget allocations.

    That’s where you come in:  Look into what your county is doing and help us shape future plans.

    Read the full report (PDF) and find out more about our advocacy efforts.

  • New Wildfire Information and Resources Page

    We hope you are safe from the recent wildfires in California. Our thoughts are with those who are impacted. It is heartbreaking to see so many of our communities suffering. 

    We would like to thank our first responders for always getting so many to safety. We also want to stress the importance of attending to both the immediate and long-term mental health for all of those impacted. You can find mental health resources here on our website or from your local NAMI affiliate. You are not alone.

    We have published a page that we will keep updated with information and resources:

  • Action Alert: Ask your Senators to Make 988 a Reality

    One call can save a life. But, when a person is in a mental health crisis and has to look-up or remember a 10-digit number, precious minutes can be lost.

    We need a readily accessible crisis response system as an essential component of our nation’s strategy for mental health intervention and suicide prevention.

    The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, S. 2661, is a bipartisan and companion bill to H.R. 4194 in the U.S. House of Representatives, that would create an easy-to-remember 3-digit number as the nationwide hotline for suicide prevention and mental health crisis*. This number will make it easier for people in the U.S. experiencing a crisis to receive immediate and appropriate mental health support and referral.

    We need your help to make this number a reality.

    Sign our letter to your Senator(s)

    Sign our letter to your U.S. Representative

    *If you or somebody you know is in mental health crisis help is available now. Text “NAMI” to 741741 or call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. This bill will make the Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number 3 digits, so it’s easier for people to remember.

  • New School Year, New Ending the Silence Opportunities

    We’ve heard great reports from our affiliates about the Ending the Silence presentations we’ve been giving at schools across the Golden State.

    Students have provided us with feedback that reinforces just how valuable the program is for our youth. Some comments they have shared:

    “I liked about the presentation telling us it doesn’t matter if you have a mental health condition you still can receive help because you are human.”

    “It was a good presentation that helped me understand mental health better and make me feel like I could help people now.”

    “It was cool that the people presenting were able to relate the presentation to themselves or others to help me more clearly understand what was being spoken of.”

    “It was great that the presentation made it clear how mental illness is no one’s fault.”

    Find out more about the program and request a presentation from your local NAMI affiliate.

  • Event Recap: Multicultural Regional Symposium October 2019

    We convened with community members for another in our series of multicultural symposiums in Stockton on October 12. Our “Team NAMI: Raising Voices” day at San Joaquin Delta College included informative and inspiring presentations and discussions with fellow community members working to improve mental health care for all Californians.

    We learned a lot from our Keynote speaker Kimberly Warmsley on Innovative Interventions in binding the community in healing.

    It was wonderful to feel the blessing of our ancestors from Kalpulli Ketzalkoatl Ehecatl’s welcoming ceremony.

    Informational knowledge about CLAS standards and San Joaquin Behavioral Health Services Standards was shared by Angelo Balmaceda.

    Raksmey Roeum-Castleman discussed how community is more than belonging — it’s about doing something together that makes belonging matter.

    We learned about and experienced new holistic and natural healing with Inner G.

    We heard impactful words by WithOurWords Youth: Aaron & Miniya.

    Kimberly Knifong led the breakout session, “Action Plans around the Diverse Communities in the Criminal And Juvenile Justice System.”

    NAMI CA is truly appreciative of the support and efforts from all participants! More photos below, including organizations who came to share resources.

  • Action Alert: Short Survey on the LPS Act

    We hope you will give a few minutes of your time to help us protect our families and communities impacted by mental illness in California. 

    The issue: An investigation of the Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) Act, which provides the guidelines for handling involuntary civil commitment of individuals with a mental illness in California. The LPS Act was recently approved to go through the Joint Legislative Audit Committee of the legislature to examine the application on the laws throughout the state. The aim is to determine if any updates, clarifications, or improvements are needed to ensure the equal application of California’s mental health commitment procedures. 

    What we are doing and how you can help: NAMI California remains committed to representing the voices of those families and individuals impacted by mental illness on a daily basis, and we want to hear from you before developing our position on this issue. To protect our communities affected by mental illness, it is important that we provide information regarding this issue, so that we are active participants in the creation, delivery, and implementation of any changes to the law. Our survey includes a few questions that should take no more than 3 minutes to complete. Your participation in this survey will guide us in helping our families and communities.

  • Community Voices: What We’d Tell Our Younger Selves

    We asked our members and followers: If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self in middle or high school?

    Here is a collection of inspiring answers from our community.

    “I would tell myself the truth. That I need to stop putting myself and my needs second. Because that will only cause me to forget to take care of myself. Because that will only cause me to forget to take care of myself. That it will cause me to be sleep-deprived. Deprived of food and self-care. If I could, I would teach my younger self the importance of self-care and boundaries. I would tell myself to stay alive because things will only get better.” —Miya, Sacramento

    “Your life is valuable and has worth. You are stronger than you know and will do amazing things in your life. Facing your fears will be so worth it!!!” —Alicia, Riverside

    “NAMI is worth looking into. The things they will help you with will help you build up to a better, happier, healthier life. I found my best life because of NAMI.” —Doug, Sacramento

    “Don’t care what other people have to say.” —Emma, Chula Vista

    “The people that reject you are not worth your time and energy…. There are many people waiting in line to be your friends in the future that really care and are patient.” — Laurie, Westside Los Angeles

    “Don’t worry about what other people think.” —joanna8680 on Instagram
    One day at a time and always reach for the rainbow 🌈!!!!!! And treat others as you would like to be treated. —@tracicanter on Instagram

    “To pay close attention to my mental health. To get care and professional help asap in order to help prevent the mental breakdown that occurs.” —Mathew, Lincoln

    “Be your true authentic self no matter what.” —breehughes26 on Instagram

    More questions and opportunities for you to share your insights and stories on our Community Voices page.

  • 5 Things You Can Do For World Mental Health Day (or Any Day)

    1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year. Here are 5 things you can do today to make a difference.

    Bonus actions to take: Become a NAMI member, sign up to receive our newsletter, or make a donation.

  • Mental Illness Awareness Week 2019: 7 Principles, 7 Ways to Make A Difference

    Before we begin our support groups for individuals and families impacted by mental health conditions, we read several principles of support. For Mental Illness Awareness Week (Oct. 6-12, 2019), will use some of these principles as a bridge to open up more of a dialogue on the subject of mental health, and to share actions we can all take to improve the lives of Californians and families living with serious mental mental health conditions.

    Find out more about the campaign.

  • NAMI CA Interview: Kimberly Warmsley

    Kimberly Warmsley, a private practice therapeutic provider whose specialty is “creating new ways of healing individuals suffering from emotional distress,” is a speaker on trauma healing at our 2019 Northern California Multicultural Symposium: “Team NAMI: Raising Voices” on Saturday, October 12.

    Of our work together, she says, “NAMI has been always been influential in my professional life. I enjoyed learning through the lenses of the volunteers and professionals within this organization and its entirety.” Below, she shares her insights as part of our interview series on local leaders working to help end stigma and make sure that all our communities receive the mental health services they need.

    Why is mental health is a priority for you?

    Mental health is very important to me because our emotional distress directs our day-to-day functioning. When people feel better, they work better, they go to school better, they have better relationships, etc. This is why it is important that we prioritize our mental health, so that we can feel better.

    What would you say is the biggest challenge when it comes to mental health? 

    The biggest challenge that I see in mental health is there are not enough providers. There needs to be more providers in order to ensure that there are quality services. I am amazed that some of the biggest health care systems lack enough providers to fit the need of the people. People deserve immediate appointments, and fast turn-around. People should not be waiting 60 days for an appointment, and only see their provider every three weeks.

    Lastly, we need to address the lack of cultural sensitivity in treatment, in order to treat people according to where they are in their belief systems and cultural traditions. Building rapport and trust is essential in creating effective relationships with clients and communities.

    Can you share a recent success story or describe a big work accomplishment you’re proud of achieving? 

    My biggest achievement is transcribing the Trauma Informed Care Proclamation for the City of Stockton. I am proud of the fact that the City is recognizing the need of de-stigmatizing mental health, and that we must be supportive of individuals that are dealing with mental illness. It is my hope to continue the conversations of empowering people to access services if needed. It is my hope that this proclamation will be a tool in encouraging organizations, businesses, neighbors, and community to support individuals in seeking care and treatment.

    What do you personally do to take care of your mental health? Can you share one or more things you do for self-care?

    Self-care is very important to me. I enjoy long drives with beautiful scenery such as the mountains, beaches, and even sightseeing. My most favorite thing to do is to drive across the Golden State Bride, Bay Bridge or San Mateo bridge and open all the windows up and smell the fresh sea water.

    What gives you hope for the future?

    My hope for the future is that we begin to normalize the fact that mental health should be a priority in care. My hope is to de-stigmatize the negativity that people project towards people that are suffering with mental illness. My hope for the future is for metal health to be a priority in care, and that we create more spaces for people to heal. I hope that we invest more clinic and culturally enriched services for people, not only in Stockton, but throughout the country.

    Find our more and registration (it’s free!) for the 2019 Northern California Multicultural Symposium: “Team NAMI: Raising Voices” on Saturday, October 12, in Stockton.

  • What Parents Can Do to Help Children Living with ADHD

    Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common conditions in children and we have come a long way in recent years to help end the stigma associated with the mental health condition. Most now understand that ADHD is not a byproduct of parenting style and children affected by ADHD do not lack intelligence or discipline—they are just challenged by sustaining the focus needed to complete tasks appropriate for their age.

    An estimated 8.8% of children aged 4-17 have ADHD. Parents and caregivers face challenges with children who have ADHD and experience its symptoms, including inactivity, hyperactivity and impulsivity. Parents and caregivers should know they are not alone and there are resources and community support available.

    Below are NAMI-recommended ways to support children living with ADHD:

    1. Maintain a positive attitude. Focus on successes and victories and less on the challenges or obstacles of the condition. Always have their strengths, goals and interests help drive the services and supports he receives to manage the symptoms of ADHD. For example, for children who are always moving, consider engaging them in physical activities like yoga, dance class, running, martial arts or similar activities in which the symptoms of ADHD may actually help them excel. It is helpful to create experiences that build on strengths and bolster self-esteem. Your positive attitude is the best tool in helping children overcome the challenges of ADHD.
    2. Create and maintain structure. Children living with ADHD are more likely to succeed when they have a regular schedule of tasks each day. They can experience serious problems if their daily structure changes, or they are forced to make a big change. Create and sustain a supportive structure so that your child knows what to expect every day.
    3. Communicate rules and expectations. Children living with ADHD do well with clear and simple rules and expectations that they can easily understand and follow. Write down any rules and expectations and post them in a place where your child can easily read them. You may also want to create a chores chart for them to look at every day. They may also respond well to an organized system of rewards and consequences—consistency is key. Explain the consequences when rules are broken and to praise them when they are obeyed. Rewards should be immediate experiences and activities with a parent to encourage bonding and connection rather than tangible rewards or treats. Consequences should not punish the child but the behavior (e.g., time out from any reinforcing activities).
    4. Encourage movement and sleep. Children who live with ADHD have energy to burn. Organized sports and other physical activities can help them increase their self-esteem and unleash their energy in healthy and productive ways with other children in their age group. Children living with ADHD who exercise often tend to sleep better, which can greatly reduce ADHD symptoms. Have a nighttime routine that encourages a healthy sleep cycle—this may include reading, avoiding electronics and encouraging self-soothing activities before bed. Martial arts can be a helpful strategy as they emphasize self-control and increase confidence.
    5. Focus on social skills. Children living with ADHD often have difficulty with peer relationships and making friends. They may have a tough time with reading social cues, talking too much, interrupting frequently, or coming off as inappropriately aggressive. Their emotional immaturity may cause them to stand out among other kids in their age group, contributing to low self-esteem. Model social skills, consider hiring a life coach or work with your child’s therapist to address this issue. Being connected to family and friends is an important part of living well with ADHD.
    6. Engage help from school. Students living with ADHD may experience unique challenges in the classroom. The common symptoms of ADHD—inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity—can cause disruptions to a child’s learning, peer relationships, functional performance and behavior within the school setting. ADHD may manifest itself differently in the classroom than what you see at home. Girls living with ADHD are at times overlooked as their presentation often involves less behavioral disruption than boys. Your child’s school will likely offer programs and special educational services if you feel they may need them. The school can conduct an evaluation to see if they qualify. You should speak with your child’s teacher and other counselors about these opportunities and consider the other accommodations below.

    The following is a list of typical accommodations that a student living with ADHD may receive from their school.

    • Modified homework assignments, testing and deadlines
    • Use of helpful tools (calculator, tape recorder, computer and electric spell-checker)
    • A behavioral plan or social skills training
    • Continual progress reports assessing behavior and assignments
    • Peer, volunteer tutors or working one-on-one with the teacher
    • Sitting the student near the teacher and away from doors and windows
    • Increased parent and teacher collaboration
    • Providing the student with a note-taking partner
    • Letting the student run occasional errands for the teacher to burn off some energy

    The following is a list of more intensive services and supports that may be provided for students living with ADHD:

    • Supplementary aids and services
    • School-based counseling
    • Family counseling and training
    • Resource room services (small group work)
    • Test modifications, such as small group testing in a separate location
    • One-on-one service providers, such as crisis management services, transportation services and more
    • Collaborative team teaching​

    Find out more about ADHD from NAMI National.

  • Action Alert: Join Us in Supporting a 3-Digit Number for Suicide Prevention

    Too many lives are cut short by suicide. The national suicide crisis is affecting our friends, our families, and our communities. And tragically, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people ages 10-34.

    A new bill introduced in Congress hopes to help change that. The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, H.R. 4194, is a bipartisan bill that would create an easy-to-remember 3-digit number as the nationwide hotline for suicide prevention and mental health crisis.* This number will make it easier for people in the U.S. experiencing a crisis to receive immediate and appropriate mental health support and referral. NAMI supports this bill.

    We need your help to make this number a reality.

    Click here to sign NAMI’s letter that will be sent to your member of Congress, urging them to cosponsor H.R. 4194, the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act. Want to have more impact? Personalize the message to your member of Congress.

    *If you or somebody you know is in mental health crisis, help is available now. Text “NAMI” to 741741 or call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. This bill will make the Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number 3 digits, so it’s easier for people to remember. Also: Find ways to help prevent suicide, including warning signs, risk factors and support in a crisis.

  • The Superpower of Ending Stigma

    For National Comic Book Day (or any day!), here are two good examples of NAMI members opening up about mental health challenges.

    “Wonder Woman said, ‘We have to fight for those that cannot fight for themselves.’ It reminded me why I am an advocate…” Read the full post on NAMI National’s website.

    Former WWE star and NAMI Ambassador AJ Mendez wrote a book called “Crazy is My Superpower.” In the NAMI interview, she shares, “I would tell any Hispanic family it takes so much more strength it is so much braver to ask for help, to talk to each other about what you’re experiencing. .. We don’t have to be tougher, we don’t have to be quiet. You know, strength does not have to be synonymous with silence.” More of her inspiring words in the full video interview below and in a blog post for NAMI National.

    Telling personal stories of recovery can be one of the most effective ways to diminish stigma and help individuals and families who are facing challenges related to mental health conditions. Submit your story for consideration.

  • Community Voices: What Would You Tell Your Younger Self?

    We’re asking our members and followers to answer a question each month to connect and inspire others in our community.

    For September: It’s back-to-school time for students and we know we must do more to help youth with mental health challenges.

    At our Ending the Silence presentations, our peer presenters often share stories of their own school experiences and reveal that things get better. There is help and hope for kids with mental health challenges.

    Our question to the community:

    If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self in middle or high school?

    Answer online.


  • Cultural and Linguistic Competence Training Online Webinar Series

    Our three-part “Cultural and Linguistic Competence Training Online” webinar series aims to equip NAMI members, affiliates, and community members with tools and resources to engage diverse communities. Webinars may be attended as a three-part series or individually, depending on the participant’s needs or the needs and interest of your organization. If you complete all three webinars, you will receive certification.

    Part I: Mental Health 101 for Diverse Learners and Communities

    Friday, September 27, 2019 from 1:30 PM to 4 PM

    Attendees will cover key principles and the spectrum of community engagement, key features that define community, and use case scenarios to engage in a deeper discussion about real-world strategies and pitfalls for engaging diverse communities.

    Part II: Foundations of Cultural and Linguistic Competence

    Friday, October 18, 2019 from 1:30 PM to 4 PM


    Part III: Principles of Community Engagement

    Saturday, November 9, 2019, 10 am to 12:30 PM

    Note: Part III will be a webinar and will also be presented at UC Davis Health Center, for those who are able to attend in person.


  • 2019 Northern California Regional Multicultural Symposium

    We’re excited to announce the details for our 2019 Northern California Regional Multicultural Symposium, set for Saturday, October 12, 2019, at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton.

    Through this event, NAMI CA seeks to bridge the gaps created by mental health stigma by bringing together Northern California community leaders, providers and peers from diverse communities. Our goal is to foster an open dialogue about the successes and challenges various communities have experienced. We look forward to highlighting innovative approaches to improving the mental health of diverse populations. Find out more and register.

  • News: Mental Health Training for Emergency Dispatchers

    We received good news that promises to protect individuals who experience a mental health crisis and our communities.

    Recently, we sponsored a bill (AB 680 from Assemblymember Kansen Chu) to increase training requirements for emergency dispatchers. The goal: to make sure that those answering and responding to our emergency calls know more about crisis intervention and mental health identification. We need both dispatchers and peace officers to be well-educated and -trained in how to respond to emergencies that involve people with mental health conditions, intellectual disabilities, or substance abuse disorders.

    Sometimes we celebrate victories at the state capitol with the passing of policies like these, and sometimes we see the ripple effect with our efforts. While AB 680 didn’t advance during this legislative session, we heard from the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) that they will work with us on plans to implement the emergency dispatcher training recommendations we made.

    “We are happy that POST sees the value in this training and look forward to our continued work with the agency,” said our CEO, Jessica Cruz. “Families and individuals across California deserve the best supports when faced with a mental health crisis. This is a step in the right direction, and we commend POST for their leadership.”

    We thank Assemblymember Chu for introducing the bill and to POST for recognizing the need to improve the quality of information provided to peace officers. “This is a clear victory for good policy. I am very pleased that POST is moving forward with training as prescribed in my bill, AB 680, even though the legislation did not pass this year,” said Assemblymember Chu. “Mental health support for those in need is a priority for me, and I’m glad it’s also important to POST. Dispatchers are usually the first point of contact in a crisis, and this training will help them alert responding officers to special circumstances, such as mental health crises. I want individuals with mental health struggles to get the help they need instead of being locked up.” 

    With this promise of additional training, we can protect the safety of all people involved, including the individual in crisis, family members, first responders, and bystanders. With this and other efforts, we can reduce the number of people with mental health conditions involved with the criminal justice system. With this also comes the hope that this leads to more individuals and families receiving the mental health care they need.

    When implemented, California will be the first state in the country to provide this level of training to all 911 dispatchers as part of their basic training course curriculum. 

    Press release from Assemblymember Chu.

    Find out more about our state-wide advocacy efforts and how you can become involved.

  • Mental Health Benefits of Nature

    A growing body of research shows that time in nature — or enjoying pockets of green in urban settings — is good for our mental health. Some studies and key findings are below. Get the story, then get outside for some green time!

    “Stanford Researchers Find Mental Health Prescription: Nature”

    Two groups of participants walked for 90 minutes, one in a grassland area scattered with oak trees and shrubs, the other along a traffic-heavy four-lane roadway. Before and after, the researchers measured heart and respiration rates, performed brain scans and had participants fill out questionnaires. The researchers found little difference in physiological conditions, but marked changes in the brain. Neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, a brain region active during rumination – repetitive thought focused on negative emotions – decreased among participants who walked in nature versus those who walked in an urban environment…. More…

    “Science Confirms You Should Stop and Smell the Roses”

    “…if people simply take time to notice the nature around them, it will increase their general happiness and well-being….” More…

    “Research Suggests that Mood Disorders Can be Lifted by Spending More Time Outdoors”

    Research in a growing scientific field called ecotherapy has shown a strong connection between time spent in nature and reduced stress, anxiety, and depression…. More…

    “Forest Experience and Psychological Health Benefits”

    Wilderness and related studies clearly demonstrate that being in a forest environment has a positive effect on people, while results from other studies indicate that contacts with forest environments provide multiple positive physiological and psychological effects on human health that included decreasing the blood pressure and heart rate and reducing anxiety and stress…. More…

    “What is the Best Dose of Nature and Green Exercise for Improving Mental Health?”

    Every green environment improved both self-esteem and mood; the presence of water generated greater effects…. More…

    “Biodiversity and Our Brains: How Ecology and Mental Health Go Together in Our Cities”

    Research shows us biodiverse nature has particular positive benefit for mental well-being. Multi-sensory elements such as bird or frog sounds or wildflower smells have well-documented beneficial effects on mental restoration, calm and creativity…. More….

  • What You Can Do to Prevent Suicide: Warning Signs, Risk Factors, and Support in a Crisis

    Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, and suicide rates have increased by 30% since 1999 (CDC). With effective care, suicidal thoughts are treatable, and suicide is preventable. Below, NAMI information on warning signs and risk factors of suicide, and what you can do to support a suicidal loved one in a crisis. Together, we can work on suicide prevention and protect our loved ones and communities.

    Warning Signs

    • Increased alcohol and drug use
    • Aggressive behavior
    • Withdrawal from friends, family and community
    • Dramatic mood swings
    • Impulsive or reckless behavior
    • Suicidal behaviors are a psychiatric emergency. If you or a loved one starts to take any of these steps, seek immediate help from a health care provider or call 911:
    • Collecting and saving pills or buying a weapon
    • Giving away possessions
    • Tying up loose ends, like organizing personal papers or paying off debts
    • Saying goodbye to friends and family

    If you are unsure, a licensed mental health professional can help assess.

    Risk Factors

    Research has found that 46% of people who die by suicide had a known mental health condition. Several other things may put a person at risk of suicide, including:

    • A family history of suicide
    • Substance abuse. Drugs can create mental highs and lows that worsen suicidal thoughts.
    • Intoxication. More than 1 in 3 people who die from suicide are under the influence of alcohol at the time of death.
    • Access to firearms
    • A serious or chronic medical illness
    • Gender. Although more women than men attempt suicide, men are nearly 4 times more likely to die by suicide.
    • A history of trauma or abuse
    • Prolonged stress
    • A recent tragedy or loss

    Support In A Crisis

    When a suicide-related crisis occurs, friends and family are often caught off-guard, unprepared and unsure of what to do. The behaviors of a person experiencing a crisis can be unpredictable, changing dramatically without warning.

    There are a few ways to approach a suicide-crisis:

    • Talk openly and honestly. Don’t be afraid to ask questions like: “Do you have a plan for how you would kill yourself?”
    • Remove means such as guns, knives or stockpiled pills
    • Calmly ask simple and direct questions, like “Can I help you call your psychiatrist?”
    • If there are multiple people around, have one person speak at a time
    • Express support and concern
    • Don’t argue, threaten or raise your voice
    • Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong
    • If you’re nervous, try not to fidget or pace
    • Be patient

    Sources for Help in a Crisis

    • National Suicide Prevention Line: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)
    • Crisis Text Line send “NAMI” to 741741
    • The Trevor Project Lifeline: 1-866-488-7386

    More Sources for Help

    Guide to navigating a mental health crisis

    Infographic on what to do if you suspect someone is thinking about suicide.

    How to Ask Someone About Suicide (NAMI blog post)

    Supporting Youth Mental Health (NAMI blog post)

    Find your local NAMI California affiliate to find out about our free support groups, classes, and education programs

    More from NAMI

  • Tribute: Mental Health Champion Rusty Selix

    The mental health community lost a strong ally and champion, with the passing of Rusty Selix this week.

    Selix will be remembered for his innovative advocacy efforts to support better mental health services for Californians, as the former head of the California Council of Community Behavioral Health Agencies (CBHA), and with his work for other state organizations and coalitions. Notably, he was co-author of California’s Mental Health Services Act, a landmark 2004 ballot measure (Proposition 63) to expand and improve county mental health services. NAMI California was a proud partner in making sure the proposition passed, and we were honored to work alongside Selix on this and other advocacy efforts here in Sacramento.

    His commitment to advocate for the underserved was inspiring to so many of us in the field. “He was a genius, solid rock, and fierce advocate for mental health issues, families and individuals,” says NAMI California CEO Jessica Cruz. “His wisdom will continue and his legacy will never be forgotten.”

    Our thoughts go out to his family and loved ones.

    It is with great sorrow that we share the news that Rusty Selix passed away yesterday surrounded by his family while…

    Posted by CA Council of Community Behavioral Health Agencies on Wednesday, August 28, 2019

  • In the Field: Behavioral Health Action Discussion with Dr. Thomas Insel

    NAMI California CEO Jessica Cruz joined the California Hospital Association’s Carmela Coyle, another member of our Behavioral Health Action team, for discussion with Dr. Thomas Insel, the newly appointed key advisor to Governor Newsom on mental health. Dr. Insel is helping lead California to address behavioral health challenges and we were thrilled to sit down with him for our Behavioral Health Champion interview series.

    Note: Dr. Insel has been booked as a speaker at our 2020 conference.

  • School Guide: Maintaining Mental Health

    Back-to-school time can be tough for anyone, but it can be especially challenging for those impacted by mental health conditions.

    Consider these facts:

    • 75% of all mental health conditions begin by age 24.
    • 1 in 5 children ages 13-18 have, or will have, a serious mental illness.

    First things first: Know the warning signs of mental illness (graphic). More mental health resources for students, parents, and teachers are below.

    For College

    NAMI’s College Guide, with warning signs and tips

    Tips on how to help a friend who may be facing mental health challenges

    Guide to managing a mental health condition in college

    NAMI On Campus program: clubs offering peer support for college students

    A Parent’s Guide To Mental Health For College Students

    Disability Rights Fact Sheet: Colleges and Universities

    For Middle and High School

    “Ending the Silence” free program for middle and high schools

    NAMI On Campus for High Schools

    Ensuring Your Child is Supported At School

  • How Pets Can Help Us Maintain Mental Health

    If you have a pet in your life, you know how furry friends can provide unconditional love and support. Spending time with domestic animals has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, fatigue and pain for people. Below, find more about how spending time with pets can help those with mental health conditions.

    How Dogs Can Help with Depression

    “Studies show that dogs reduce stress, anxiety and depression, ease loneliness, encourage exercise and improve your all-around health. For example, people with dogs have lower blood pressure and are less likely to develop heart disease—just playing with dogs has been shown to elevate oxytocin and dopamine, creating positive feelings and bonding for both the person and their pet….” More on how dogs can help with depression….

    The Power of Pet Therapy

    “When we’re facing despair, loneliness, chronic health issues, depression, addictions, or anything beyond our ability to cope, a pet can help ease the pain. He or she can give us a reason to get out of our thoughts to focus on a sense of purpose. The relationship we have with our pets is real and symbiotic—what I give to my pets comes back to me in ways that can’t be measured….” More on the power of pet therapy…

    “For people with a mental health condition, research has shown that time with pets reduces anxiety levels more than other recreational activities. Pets also provide a non-judgmental form of interaction that can motivate and encourage people, especially children. Veterans with PTSD have also found therapy pets helpful….” More on therapy pets….

    Army Dogs Help with PTSD

    “Animals are not just cute. They provide support.” — U.S. Army Col. Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, M.D. at a NAMI conference

  • Study: NAMI Homefront Program Benefits Military and Veteran Families

    Good news about the NAMI Homefront program: a new study shows that it produces significant benefits for both in-person and online participants. The study published in Psychiatric Services, a journal of the American Psychiatric Association, found that participants in both formats experienced improvements in empowerment, coping, psychological distress, family functioning, the experience of caregiving, and knowledge of mental illness. (More from the NAMI press release.)

    The NAMI Homefront program is an adaptation of the evidence-based NAMI Family-to-Family program designed to address the unique needs of family, caregivers, and friends of active duty military service members and veterans experiencing post-traumatic stress (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and other mental health conditions. The free program consists of six 2.5-hour peer-taught sessions. Since launching in 2014, the program has enrolled more than 2,500 individuals (1,100 in person, 1,470 online).

    Contact your local NAMI California affiliate to find out about if the program is currently being offered by your community, or find out about taking the class online.

  • What You Can Do to Support the Mental Health of LGBTQ Loved Ones

    Those we care about in the LGBTQ community — friends, family members, colleagues, and neighbors — must confront stigma and prejudice based on their sexual orientation or gender identity while also dealing with the societal bias against mental health conditions.

    Families, friends, and allies play a critical role and can take actions to be supportive. A few suggestions:

    Respect Their Identity

    We can all take simple steps to respect the identity of LGBTQ people by affirming how they choose to live and using their chosen gender pronouns. Affirming LGBTQ people’s identities can actually save lives; a study recently indicated that using transgender youths’ chosen names may lower suicide risk.

    Learn About the Early Signs of Mental Illness

    Mental illness is complicated and difficult to understand, but knowledge and insight helps us to be supportive. Review the warning signs of mental illness.

    Create and Teach Awareness

    Be supportive publicly, by addressing anti-LGBTQ language and actions when you hear or see them.

    Support organizations and policies benefiting the LGBTQ community.

    Support Them in Accessing Mental Health Resources

    Share the It Gets Better Project, a campaign to share hopeful, inspiring stories.

    Find out more from The Trevor Project, which provides a national, 24-hour, toll-free confidential suicide hotline for LGBTQ youth: 866-488-7386.

    Suggest attending a local NAMI support group, and/or attend one yourself. Find your local NAMI California affiliate here.

    Listen and Be Compassionate

    As always, be compassionate of the struggles of others and offer to listen and help.

  • NAMI CA Weekly Review: Mental Health News for August 18-23

    Marking Local Progress

    Our CEO, Jessica Cruz, joined other local leaders for a meeting to discuss behavioral health issues with Dr. Tom Insel, a newly appointed advisor to Governor Gavin Newsom. 

    Our Behavioral Health Action team sat down with Dr. Jim Wood, chair of the Assembly Health Committee, to discuss more solutions to California’s behavioral health crisis, for our “Behavioral Health Champions” video series. 

    “Mental health consultants helping California teachers in the classroom” (KXAN News)
    This story addresses how school visits from mental health professionals are helping teachers to support their students.

    Reporting on Work We’re Tackling

    “Trump’s claims and what experts say about mental illness and mass shootings” (ABC News)
    NAMI National’s acting CEO  Angela Kimball is among the experts quoted in this story about the damaging and misleading comments by the President. (Read NAMI’s full statement here.)

    “Habla Español? Hispanics face growing mental health care crisis” (USA Today)
    This story highlights the need for more mental health providers to serve our Hispanic communities. 

    Ending Stigma

    “We want to help create an understanding around mental health. When it’s something that people can’t see, it’s really difficult for them to understand.”

    —NBA basketball player Kevin Love helping to end stigma while speaking up about his own mental health challenges and his commitment to help others, during panel about mental health at UCLA

    Related: The NBA recently took bold action to provide mental health support for players: “NBA ramps up mental health program, setting new expectations for each team” (The Athletic)

  • Help us out by participating in our Stakeholders Survey!

    NAMI California commits to seek, receive, and actively consider stakeholder recommendations while continuously improving a consistent feedback mechanism. We are committed to effective stakeholder engagement and rely on our continued work with stakeholders to help us further our mission to effectively advocate for lives of quality and respect, without discrimination and stigma, for families and individuals who have been affected by serious mental illness.

    We currently have two Stakeholders Surveys for the general public to participate in. Responses will help us draft our annual State of the Community reports.

    Families Survey

    Have a family member or a loved one dealing with a mental health situation? Together we can work to improve community mental health outcomes; such as access to care, consumer and family experience of care, and advocacy for increased research to uncover causes and new, effective treatment. Your input and participation is essential to help us achieve our mission, vision, and core values.

    Click here to take the survey

    Diverse Survey

    Do you come from a diverse cultural background and are dealing with a mental health situation? Together we can address disparities in the health status of people of diverse racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, including across the lifespan. Enhancing cultural and linguistic responsiveness will result in the ability to better understand, communicate with, and interact effectively with people across a variety of different cultures and languages. Your input and participation is essential to help us achieve our mission, vision, and core values. 

    Click here to take the survey

  • Spring Capitol Advocacy Day!

    Over 50 attendees joined us for our Capitol Advocacy Day on April 10 at the California State Capitol Building in Sacramento. The event was organized to help raise awareness on mental illness among decision makers for NAMI California members’ priority issues, such as access to treatment, housing, crisis services, criminal justice, and family involvement. Eight groups broke out to discuss Assembly Bill 680 – funding for crisis intervention training – and Senate Bill 539 – creating a workforce education and training (WET) trust fund. The two-hour group slots also allowed these individuals to share their stories and advocate for the priorities of the families NAMI California serves.

    Stay tuned! A full report will be published shortly!

  • NAMI California helps host Solano County’s Mental Health 101 training

    Members from our Merced, Solano, and Yolo County affiliates
    joined together over the weekend for NAMI Solano County’s Mental Health 101
    Presenter and Cultural Competency Training. This two day training prepared
    members to go out into diverse communities equipped to provide education about
    mental health and stigma reduction (through the power of sharing their stories
    of lived experience as peers, and supporters of loved ones with mental health
    experiences). Members were also trained in Cultural & Linguistic Competency,
    engaging in open discussions to explore ways to effectively and appropriately
    engage diverse communities of all backgrounds.

    Congratulations again to our newly trained Mental Health 101

  • NAMI California represented at Youth Mental Health Day

    Cal-HOSA students congregating inside the Sacramento Convention Center

    The California HOSA (Cal-HOSA) Youth Speaking Up for Youth Mental Health Day provided an opportunity for students, educators, community leaders, mental health providers, and policy experts to hear from youths about the adverse challenges facing them.

    The Sacramento Convention Center saw hundreds shuffle in and out of its doors all day Wednesday, with at least 100 being from Cal-HOSA – a state organization for student leaders pursuing careers in the healthcare industry.

    NAMI California’s booth sat alongside Each Mind Matters’ inside the medium-sized conference hall, with information regarding their programs and NAMI on Campus High School provided to interested students. Over 30 students signed up to learn more about these educational opportunities and even more stopped by for a chat!

    NAMI California CEO Jessica Cruz was one of four to provide an introductory speech prior to the start of the day’s schedule.

    The event’s agenda was filled with various keynote speakers and storytelling sessions. Tristan J. McCormick used poetry and music to share his life experiences in ways that connected with others’ personal narratives and ensure that everyone fully participates in community life. Since 1999, McCormick has been using hip-hop music as a coping skill.

    Dawn Zitzka took over around noon with a powerful keynote presentation about self-appreciation and self-acceptance. By writing out stories and feelings, students were able to speak out about their emotions and connect with others.

    Dawn Zitzka

    Dr. Amir Whitaker took over after lunch as the second keynote speaker and spoke of his struggles during childhood. Whitaker, often referred to as “Dr. Knucklehead,” was arrested at 15 and eventually expelled from school. In 2014, he started Project Knucklehead to inspire vulnerable youths and help them reach their potential through education, music, and art programs.

    Dr. Amir Whitaker

    Finally, Richard Van Horn closed out the event as the final keynote speaker. Van Horn built Mental Health America of Los Angeles into one of California’s leading nonprofit mental health organizations.

    Click here for more information regarding Cal-HOSA. Stay tuned for more NAMI California updates!

  • Take a look at these photos from NAMI Contra Costa’s Community Healing Event!

    Check out these photos from NAMI Contra Costa’s Community
    Healing Event for African Americans on Feb. 28. The Black History Month
    celebration, titled “A Time to Heal: From Pain to Purpose,” was sponsored by
    Black Minds Matter 2, NAMI California, and the African American Steering
    Committee for Health and Wellness.

    During the event, community members and leaders discussed
    the variety of challenges and recommendations for overcoming the systemic
    barriers posed by institutional racism that impact mental healthcare for
    African American communities across California. Topics discussed included the
    overuse of restrictive practices and over prescription of the strongest
    medications for African Americans, the impact of institutionalized racism on
    the mental health of the community, and the challenges navigating the public
    mental health system while also encountering discrimination at the state, local
    and community level.

    NAMI California will release a detailed analysis of themes
    and recommendations of participants in our upcoming Annual State of the
    Community Report for Diverse Communities this year. Be sure to check out the
    report for this analysis and many other explorations into best practices for
    serving the mental health needs of California’s diverse communities.

    NAMI California would like to thank the Center of Hope Community Church for donating their space for community members!

  • Check out these photos from our Southern California Regional Multicultural Symposium

    NAMI California hosted its Southern California Regional Multicultural Symposium on Thursday, March 7 at the California Endowment Center in Los Angeles. Over 90 attendees participated in a dialogue between community members and mental health care providers at various levels to discuss how to best serve diverse communities.

  • NAMI California Partner Hosts Behavioral Health Wellness Fair

    Left to right: Harriette Stevens, CALBHBC Board Member & NAMI Member/Facilitator, Amanda Levy, Director of Government Affairs with California Psychological Association, Agnes Lee, Special Assistant to the Speaker, Marcel Harris, NAMI California Advocacy Manager

    On March 4, the Connected Coalition conducted the Behavioral
    Health Wellness Fair at the Sacramento State Capitol Building on behalf of
    Mental Health America. Connected Coalition, which NAMI California is a partner
    of, designed the event to raise awareness and provide educational information focused
    on behavioral health topics and partner organizations working on those issues. The
    day was kicked off by a powerful line up of legislative speakers and mental
    health supporters followed by a behavioral health resource fair with CBO’s
    working on related issues. Afterwards, groups led legislative advocacy visits
    with the focus of access to behavioral health services and an emphasis on
    Mental Health Parity.   

    District 25 Assembly Member Kansen Chu spoke about
    the need to make sure young people have access to mental health services where
    they are (on campus) and shared Assembly
    Bill 8
    , which would require at least one mental health professional on all
    K-12 campuses, per 400 pupils. Assembly Member Chu also spoke briefly about the
    NAMI California-sponsored Assembly
    Bill 680
    , which will require that emergency dispatcher training
    requirements be increased to include mental health identification and crisis
    intervention training. This legislation would improve the quality of
    information provided by dispatchers to officers for emergencies involving
    persons with a mental illness, intellectual disabilities, or substance abuse.

    District 51 Assembly Member Wendy Carrillo spoke
    about Assembly
    Bill 46
    , which would replace derogatory terms in legislation with
    more culturally sensitive terms when referring to individuals living with
    serious mental illness. Assembly Member Carrillo also talked about access to
    treatment for all individuals regardless of immigration status and is currently
    focused on making sure we hold our systems accountable. Carrillo encouraged the
    audience to continue to educate policy makers by sharing lived experiences and
    act as a resource for mental health issues.

    Senator Dr. Richard Pan representing
    District-6 (Sacramento), spoke about his work as Chair of Subcommittee 3 on
    Health and Human Services and recent hearings regarding mental health funding.
    Dr. Pan mentioned the importance of making sure we continue to invest dollars
    into mental health services, supports and care. Senator Pan has introduced
    legislation to equip teachers with necessary Youth Mental Health First Aid
    Training and address California’s mental health crisis and get students the
    services they need to be successful.

  • NAMI Santa Clara County President Kathy Forward Receives Award from Senator Beall

    California District 15 Senator Jim Beall recognized Women’s
    history Month this Monday by honoring NAMI Santa Clara County President Kathy
    Forward and five others at a “Women of the Year” event.

    Forward was congratulated as a Lifetime Achievement honoree
    and was given a plaque by Beall.

    “I am very honored to receive the award on behalf of NAMI
    Santa Clara County,” Kathy stated following the ceremony. “It is for all the
    women (and men) past and present who work tirelessly to eliminate stigma and
    discrimination about mental illness.”

    Ms. Forward has several family members diagnosed with mental
    illness and was fortunate to be in the first class – titled “Family to Family: The
    Keys to Understanding” – for families dealing with mental illness in Santa
    Clara County in 1997.

    She has been one of the principal leaders at NAMI Santa
    Clara County since that time as a volunteer teacher, trainer, and eventually as
    Education Director in 2005. In that position, Forward trained scores of NAMI
    teachers in the 11-week course given to family members who are supporting loved
    ones with mental illness.

    Throughout her journey, she credited her mother for teaching
    her the concept of stigma in regards to mental illness, and the eventual goal
    of ridding it.

    “My mother who was labeled a ‘schizophrenic mother’
    volunteered at NAMI Santa Clara County for many years in the late 70s for over
    20 years on the Warmline,” she explained. “Someone at our office asked me how
    I’ve kept my advocacy going for so many years. My first response is my anger
    and grief. This has become the basis for my advocacy. Not only my own feelings
    with three loved ones, but also the families and those with mental health
    challenges who share their experiences about lack of treatment, stigma and
    discrimination with our Warmline every day.”

    Kathy became the board president and served for two years
    starting in 2010 to begin building the staff infrastructure of NAMI Santa Clara
    County and assure that the many programs it had developed were sustained.

    She has worked closely with numerous mental health
    organizations over the years with the goal of helping those organizations
    understand that family and peer support are critical elements for a person
    struggling with mental illness.

    Kathy speaks in front of diverse and varied forums,
    including medical groups, faith communities, educational associations, employer
    groups, and mental health organizations, and has a close relationship with
    Stanford, Kaiser, and Good Samaritan Hospitals.

  • Cultural & Linguistic Responsiveness Toolkit Webinar Training

    The Cultural & Linguistic Responsiveness (CLR) Toolkit was created by NAMI California in partnership with the Union of Pan Asian Communities (UPAC) and Pacific Clinics with funding from the California Mental Health Services Authority (CALMHSA) with feedback from the CA Reducing Disparities Project. The goal of this toolkit is to assist local affiliates and partner organizations in beginning to address the mental health disparities that exist among communities from diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds (i.e. Latinx, LGBTQ, Veteran, etc.) and better serve these individuals.

    This interactive webinar will introduce the updated toolkit, present previous successes and challenges, and encourage affiliates/organizations to increase and improve diversity engagement efforts in a meaningful and effective way.

    Toolkit Overview:

    • National Cultural and Linguistically Appropriate Service (CLAS) Standards
    • Principles of Community Engagement
    • NAMI Affiliate Common Challenges and Suggested Strategies
    • Suggested Policy & Practice Recommendations/Resources
    • And much more!

  • A Letter from Our CEO: Join NAMI California this Tax Season

    It’s a historic time for NAMI California and we need your support now more than ever!

    This year, you have the opportunity to donate in support of NAMI California’s efforts through your state tax return. This is an incredibly powerful opportunity for our state to take a giant leap towards the goal of de-stigmatizing mental illness.

    Donations will directly fund our partnership with local law enforcement to train them on how to safely interact with individuals experiencing a mental health crisis through the Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) program. This type of training is crucial for helping individuals, families, and communities impacted by mental illness.

    I’m personally asking for your help in donating to this incredibly vital cause. All you need to do is check the box labeled “National Alliance on Mental Illness California Voluntary Tax Contribution Fund” on the contributions page of your California Income Tax Return. I encourage you to visit to learn exactly how to contribute through your tax return.

    Please take a moment this tax season for mental health. With your support, we can make an incredibly impactful difference in communities across the state.

    Thank you for being a part of our team at NAMI California!

    Jessica Cruz, MPA/HS
    CEO, NAMI California

  • Governor Newsom’s Fiscal Year 2019-20 State Budget – Mental Health Issues

    County 1991 Realignment Mental Health Growth Restoration ($84 million GF):

    The Governor proposes to increase General Fund support for the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program by $241.7 million and discontinue the redirection of counties’ 1991 Realignment Mental Health Growth and county indigent health revenues. As a result, counties could receive an estimated $84 million in 1991 Realignment Mental Health Growth funding in FY 2019-20. According to the Governor’s Budget summary, “This action reflects a recognition that the state and federal government have taken actions that increase IHSS costs beyond available 1991 Realignment revenues for this program.”


    In 2017, Governor Brown and counties negotiated a new county Maintenance-of-Effort (MOE) and annual inflation factor for IHSS program costs. Part of this arrangement included a temporary redirection of all 1991 Realignment growth funds from county indigent health and mental health services to fund a portion of county IHSS costs in FYs 2017-18 and 2018-19.


    Public Mental Health Workforce Investment ($50 million GF):

    The Governor’s budget provides $50 million in one-time General Funds to the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) to “help address the increasing need for public mental health practitioners” and “increase training opportunities for workforce programs.” The Governor’s budget summary indicates that universities, health clinics, and philanthropic organizations contributing to the investment will increase the effectiveness of the funding and meaningfully benefit the entire public mental health system.


    Medi-Cal Trauma Screenings for Children and Adults ($30 million Prop. 56): Acknowledging trauma-informed care as a model of care intended to promote healing and reduce risk for re-traumatization, the Governor’s Budget proposes to utilize Proposition 56 revenues to establish and implement the use of a standardized screening for trauma among child and adult Medi-Cal beneficiaries. Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) assume that trauma screening costs will be $60 million in FY 201920, which includes $30 million from Prop. 56 funds and $30 million in federal Medicaid match. Proposition 56 of 2016 increased the tobacco tax by $2.00 to provide resources to support physician training, prevention and treatment of dental diseases, Medi-Cal, tobacco-use prevention, research into cancer, heart and lung diseases, and other tobacco-related diseases, and school programs focusing on tobacco-use prevention and reduction.


    DHCS estimates the cost to create a new trauma screening tool to be minimal, and assumes: all children and adults under age 65 will be initially screened within 3 years, one third of both the child and adult population will receive an initial screening in each year for 3 years; providers will be able to bill for children to receive periodic rescreening up to once a year and no less often than every 3 years; and 20% of those initially screened would require a complex assessment.


    Early Psychosis Research and Treatment ($25 million GF):

    The Governor’s budget provides $25 million in one-time General Fund grants using innovative approaches for detecting and intervening with young people who have had, or are at high risk of experiencing, psychosis. Additional details will be forthcoming from the Administration on the eligible entities that may apply, as well as the state agency that will presumably administer the grants.


    Mental Health Resources for University of California (UC) Students ($5.3 million GF): The Governor’s Budget $5.3 million ongoing General Fund to improve mental health programs and support efforts to meet recommended staffing ratios. The Budget describes that each UC campus currently has a division of Counseling and Psychological Services staffed with psychologists and psychiatrists to assist students. Additionally, the Governor’s Budget provides $15 million to address student hunger and housing needs.


    Whole Person Care – Supportive Housing, People with Mental Illness ($100 million GF): The Governor’s Budget provides $100 million General Fund for Whole Person Care Pilot (WPC) Programs, which is expected to be used to provide additional supportive housing for people with mental illness. These existing pilot programs focus on coordinating health, behavioral health, and social services. The $100 million will be available for expenditure until June 30, 2025.

    Under the Medi-Cal 2020 Waiver, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approved funding for WPC Pilot programs for a five-year period beginning January 1, 2016. The WPC Pilots allow local entities to integrate services for their high-risk, high-utilizing beneficiaries to promote an integrated health system designed to maximize health care value and is sustainable over the long-term. DHCS has approved a total of 25 local Whole Person Care Pilot programs (23 individual counties, one consortium of two counties, and one city).


    No Place Like Home” Gap Financing: Voters approved the No Place Like Home $2 billion bond program (to be repaid with Mental health Services Act revenues) in the November 2018 election. These bonds will help provide supportive multifamily housing for individuals experiencing mental illness who are either homeless or at risk of homelessness. The Administration will “accelerate No Place Like Home program awards and, combined with the additional tax credits and state investments included in the Budget (see the Housing and Local Government chapter), provide needed gap financing for developers to increase the production of affordable housing units.” Additional details describing this proposal are anticipated to be provided by the Administration.


    Augmented Law Enforcement Training on Mental Health Crisis ($35 million GF):

    The Governor’s Budget provides $35 million General Fund for the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST), which creates and provides mandated local law enforcement training, for augmented training on use of force, de-escalation, and engaging with individuals experiencing a mental health crisis.


    Medi-Cal Expansion to Young Adults, Regardless of Immigration Status ($194 million):

    The Governor proposes to provide full-scope Medi-Cal benefits to three populations of young adults ages 19 to 25, regardless of immigration status: undocumented full scope children turning 19, current restricted scope adults, and adults that are currently eligible, but have not enrolled into MediCal. The Department of Health Care Services estimates the implementation to be no sooner than July 1, 2019 and assumes this will expand benefits to approximately 138,000 individuals.


    County Repayment of Federal Audit Disallowances in Medi-Cal Specialty Mental Health Services ($180 million): Under Federal Audit A-09-15-02040, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) conducted an audit and determined DHCS claimed Federal Medicaid reimbursement for Specialty Mental Health Services (SMHS) unallowable under the Federal and State requirements for SMHS. The audit covers payments made during the period of federal fiscal year 2014. DHCS repaid $180.7 million to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in December 2018. However, the Administration contends that since the responsibility for SMHS was realigned to counties as a part of 2011 Realignment, these disallowances must be repaid by the counties on a quarterly basis, over a period of four years, beginning in the last quarter of FY 2018-19.


    Click here to donate

  • Affiliate & Member Corner

    NAMI on Campus High School (NCHS) Affiliate Experts Pilot Project

    As the NAMI on Campus High School (NCHS) Club program has grown over the past several years, NAMI CA has been thrilled to see the levels of local engagement also grow between affiliates and clubs. This year, we have several exciting initiatives underway to help grow the program even more, allowing us to reach new schools and youth in all areas of the state.
    To do this, we need the help of a team of Affiliate NCHS Experts! We are seeking one affiliate leader from each of the 11 regions of the state to learn the ins and outs of NCHS and become the regional expert for this program. Deadline to apply for to be an Expert is September 7th. Click here for details.


    NAMI CA Statewide Program Training Tentative Schedule

    NAMI CA is excited to announce their Statewide Program Trainings for the 2018-2019 year. The dates below are tentative and may change. If your affiliate is interested in sending candidates to the trainings below, please contact the main contact staff overseeing the training. (information below). The staff member will provide you with the Statewide Training Application which will need to be turned back in to NAMI CA for the review process of candidates.

    NAMI CA Peer-to-Peer training is on hold right now because there is a new update for Peer to Peer, and we are postponing it to have our trainers updated to teach the new 2018 format. In order for our trainers to be trained to teach the 2018 format, they must do the mentor online training, teach the full 8 weeks course, and then take the trainer online training. We are hoping that our trainers will be updated in the meantime until November. The new location will be in Sacramento, CA. The new training format will require an online training and 1.5 days in-person training days rather than 3-days of in-person training. NAMI CA will cover lodging costs and partial travel reimbursement; travel details are yet to be finalized.
    Everything is not yet finalized until, so please keep up to date with our NAMI newsletter for further notice. We will still be receiving Peer to Peer applications until October 1st, 2018. The training will accept up to 15 participants. All applications must be followed up with your local affiliate’s recommendation.
    Thank you for understanding! We look forward to the new Peer-to-Peer 2018 format.
    For any questions, please contact Thao at]

    September 2018 – FULL – Registration Closed

    Program: Family to Family Teacher Statewide Training
    Date: September 21-23, 2018
    Location: Placerville, CA
    NAMI CA Staff Contact: Serena Durand

    October 2018

    Program: Basics Teacher Statewide Training
    Date: October 19-21, 2018
    Location: San Diego, CA
    NAMI CA Staff Contact: Serena Durand
    Flyer. Application.

    November 2018

    Program: Family Support Group Facilitator Statewide Training
    Date: November 3-4, 2018
    Location: Redding, CA
    NAMI CA Staff Contact: Serena Durand
    Flyer. Application.

    December 2018

    Program: Familia a Familia Teacher Statewide Training
    Date: December 7-9, 2018
    Location: San Luiz Obispo, CA
    NAMI CA Staff Contact: Serena Durand
    Flyer. Application.


    Family / Peer Support Specialist Training

    • NAMI California is currently recruiting for the third F/PSS cohort of 2018!
      To take part in the program, you must fall into one of the following criteria’s (or both):Individuals with Lived Experience 
    • Family Member and/or Loved One

    Training Details Orientation Dates:

    August 28th & August 30th 2018

    Location: Webinar Training (computer based)

    Time: 6:00Pm-8:30PM

    Click here for more info

    Click here for interest form

    To register, send interest form to:


    NAMI Solano County Teacher Training

    NAMI Solano County is sponsoring a Family to Family Teacher Training in Fairfield beginning Friday, September 14 at 9:00 am and ending Sunday, September 16 at 1:00 pm.




    Click here for program funding opportunities for affiliates

  • NAMI California Advocates at the Capitol’s Behavioral Health Wellness Fair

    On February 28th, individuals participated in a Behavioral Health Wellness Fair at the Capitol in Sacramento. The day consisted of members meeting with elected officials, sharing resources through a wellness fair, and an opportunity to attend an informational hearing led by Senator Pan titled, “Mental Health Delivery: The Global Forefront” focused on hearing from implemented best mental health practices around the world.

    NAMI California is appreciative of individuals who participated representing geographic areas from Bay Area, San Joaquin, Solano and Amador counties. In addition, participants embodied diverse communities on behalf of the LGBTQ, African American, Latina, and Asian populations. People shared their lived experience touching upon various cultural barriers, factors and stigma with a collective connection to access to treatment. The group of six advocated for offices to ensure any new mental health related proposals ensure access to a full range of person centered care and services. Advocates shared a sense of empowerment, community, and optimism in working together to strengthen the mental health system.

    Access to treatment is particularly limited within underserved communities. To address this issue, programs and treatment services that are culturally relevant and appropriate must increase and sustain funding to fully implement an array of appropriate services in every county across California. Another underline theme of shared experiences was access to early psychosis programs and resources like UC Davis Early Psychosis Programs that are nationally recognized. Currently there are only 24 out of 58 counties in California with early psychosis programs. We want to see best practices shared and more collaboration to assist counties with increased services for all populations especially for diverse and underserved populations.

    We conducted three legislative visits with members from Senate and Assembly Health Committees. We spoke with staff (Nycole Baurch, Committee Assistant and Jessica Golly) from Senator Connie Leyva’s Office. The group also met with the office of Assembly Member Health Flora who is another Health Committee member and his legislative staff to discuss access to treatment. Lastly, the group met with staff from Assembly Autumn Burke who is currently a member of the Assembly Health Committee and a champion for children’s health and poverty issues. Staff from Assembly member Burke’s office shared with us personal lived experience and had a strong connection to individuals who shared their lived experience and cultural barriers regarding stigma and access to treatment.

    In an initial visit staff shared the aspect of hearing about lived experiences from constituents as most useful and what helps guide mental health policy and supports. All offices were advised to reach out to NAMI California and advocacy partners regarding any additional information on introduced mental health related proposals to help connect and share lived experience or expertise to inform stronger policy decisions at the State level.

    We will continue to create supported opportunities for individuals impacted by serious mental illness to share their lived experience to support and improve policies that address behavioral health services and supports across California. While engaging diverse advocates with legislative staff we ultimately provide stigma reduction and cultural competency awareness to policymakers. Mental health impacts all and as one attendee put it, “We are not Alone”.

    NAMI California looks forward to creating and participating in additional advocacy events for many years to come. We also want to make sure we are actively engaging and reaching underserved communities throughout the legislative process. Our goal and hope is that we will have every community represented during these legislative visits and work to make sure all communities have a voice and can influence proposed mental health related legislation.

  • The California Standard

    The Mental Health care system in California remains fragmented, separated and ineffective. Both on the private and public fronts, care systems struggle to grapple with both the short term and long term needs of individuals living with Mental Illness and their families. Although research has shown many best practice options, we have yet to see them implemented comprehensively in any area of our great state.

    Although we haven’t reached the finish line, California has taken many bold steps to try to address the many effects of Mental Illness. California determined decades ago that people with mental illness should be treated in their communities rather than institutionalized, however, until the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) the state lacked the funding to do so. “Help first versus fail first” has been the primary ethic since 2000, and MHSA marked a strategic undertaking towards making it a reality.
    Through a variety of programs from severe mental illness (SMI) symptom prevention to “whatever it takes” support to prevent jail time and homelessness by restoring stability to individuals living with SMI and their families, the MSHA marked a paradigm shift of programs and standards of care with new emphasis on wellness, recovery, resilience and hope.
    In 2014, the Little Hoover Commission reviewed the progress of the MHSA. NAMI California’s Chief Executive Officer, Jessica Cruz, urged lawmakers and appointees of the Commission to call for a more standardized, cohesive and consistent system for oversight of MHSA programs and funds in order to effectively reach these new standards.
    Mrs. Cruz further told the Commission, “The MHSA was designed to provide new funding to expand mental health services statewide, not to serve as the sole funding source for county mental health programs and services,” and that “if a county is not adhering to the vision of the MHSA, there is no statewide oversight body with authority over county MHSA funding distribution that would be able to oversee the process.”
    The need for a standardized approach to care throughout our state is clear. Families in counties across California are suffering needlessly with varying abilities to seek care depending on their zip code. We cannot allow this senseless system to continue. We must work together to reach a California where Mental Illness is treated with parity in all systems and in all areas of our state as with any other illness.
    We continue to promote and ensure this standard of care throughout the state—which aims to keep those living with Mental Illness and their families supported, educated, advocated for, out of the criminal justice system, in appropriate care settings, and housed. Those of us who access care in California, who worked hard for the passage of the MHSA and our many other funding streams for mental illness, expect state-level oversight and evaluation of services as well as statewide standards of care for ourselves and our loved ones.


    Steven Kite

    Chief Operating Officer



  • Gov. Brown Moves To Tackle Housing Challenges


    Home choice

    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

    Two overlapping speech, talk bubbles in more color combinations

    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 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,  children Ella and 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

    Two overlapping speech, talk bubbles in more color combinations

    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?


    Two overlapping speech, talk bubbles in more color combinations

    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

    stepping up logo

    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