• 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.


  • 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.

    Join us as we explore this year’s theme: “Team NAMI: Raising Voices.” We look forward to seeing you at the free event; refreshments and lunch will be provided to attendees.

    Date: Saturday, October 12

    Time: 9 am to 3:30 pm; check-in at 8 am

    Location: San Joaquin Delta College, 5151 Pacific Avenue, DeRicco Student Services Building, 2nd Floor, Room 275, Stockton, CA 95207 (map)

    Registration online

    Questions? Email

  • News: Mental Health Training for Emergency Dispatchers

    We received good news today 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 move forward with plans to implement the emergency dispatcher training recommendations we made.

    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.

    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.

    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…

  • 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 shift the conversation from suicide to suicide prevention.

    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

    Find out more from NAMI’s guide to navigating a mental health crisis

    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

    Sources for Help Anytime

    How to Ask Someone About Suicide (NAMI)

    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.

  • 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 Dogs Can Help Us Maintain Mental Health

    If you have a dog in your life, you know how furry friends can provide unconditional love and support. In fact, studies now show that dogs can help ease anxiety and depression. Below, find more about how spending time with dogs 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 NAMI’s material on 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. There are four opportunities, one every month beginning in April, to attend this 2 ½ hr webinar training session.

    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!

    Training times, dates, & GoToWebinar registration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 30 Second Survey: First Experiences With Mental Health Services

    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