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The sense of excitement about advocacy opportunities continues to grow here at NAMI California as we move towards a more inclusive approach to our advocacy and digest the many opportunities we have to make a difference this legislative session!

We are most excited about the launch of NAMI California’s Capitol Coalition, a group of engaged consumers and family members from local (greater Sacramento region) NAMI affiliates who have a passion for advocacy and the time to dedicate to helping NAMI California move our policy agenda forward.

On Monday, February 24th, the nine (9) coalition members were trained in “Telling Your Story”, the foundation module of NAMI Smarts for Advocacy training and briefed on the goals of the coalition.  Members will participate in legislative visits, provide testimony at legislative hearings, and provide input in meetings of the Mental Health Services Oversight & Accountability Commission (MHSOAC).

This is a great step forward in NAMI California’s effort to bring more voices to the table, and we look forward to collaborating with the members to benefit mental health services throughout the state. We also hope to expand the coalition! If you live in the Northern California area, can attend daytime meetings in Sacramento, and would like to be trained in NAMI Smarts and join the coalition, please contact David Czarnecki at We’d love to have your voice at the table.

Speaking of voices, we heard from a diversity of NAMI affiliates in our first NAMI California Advocacy Network (NAMI CAN!) conference call of the year. On the call, we apprised members of our current legislative efforts and focus, and heard feedback on how we can better connect with local affiliates and work together in advocacy. We discussed several bills currently being considered for support. Of particular interest was SB 833, which would create a voluntary program that will allow county jail inmates to elect to remain in custody for up to 16 additional hours or until normal business hours, whichever is shorter, in order to offer the inmate the ability to be discharged to a treatment center or during daytime hours.

While NAMI California heard of this bill from the author, we were glad to also have it brought to our attention by NAMI Los Angeles County Council (LACC), led by Executive Director Brittney Weisman, who was working closely with the Los Angeles County Sherriff’s office in developing the legislation. This is a great opportunity for NAMI California, NAMI LACC, and affiliates to join together to support important legislation! Our sincere hope is that this call can grow and more of these opportunities for close partnerships emerge.

This call is open to any affiliate legislative representative or liaison, or other interested parties. If you are interested in joining the NAMI CAN! calls, please email David Czarnecki

Only with more engagements like this—advocates stepping up to represent their communities, and affiliates engaging policy discussions with our staff—can we have the strongest voice at the State Capitol and the OAC. We’re ready to work with you!

NAMI Staff is meeting with legislators and staff around the Capitol to talk about mental illness and finding those members who want to be champions for mental health issues. One such person is recently elected Assemblymember Sebastien Ridley-Thomas (Culver City) who is seeking to establish the Assembly Select Committee on Mental and Behavioral Health. Assemblymember Ridley-Thomas asked for NAMI California’s help and support in getting the word out about the select committee and bringing forward issues that we feel should be addressed. We are pleased to have already established such a close working relationship with the Assemblymember, but even more pleased that mental health issues in California may have a chance to have a full airing in this committee. At least four (4) hearings will be held—two in Southern California and two in Northern California—creating a great opportunity for NAMI California affiliates to attend those meetings and raise your concerns about the State’s handling of mental illness and mental health issues. We will provide more information as the committee is finalized and hearing dates are set.

We truly hope that we can engage in strong partnerships with our affiliates over the course of the next year and build an infrastructure that promotes open communication and a lasting partnership s. This year presents great opportunities to work together on important issues, and to guide the discussion on mental health issues in a Select Committee made just for us.

If you can’t join the Capitol Coalition, NAMI CAN calls, or attend hearings, what can you do?

  • Write to NAMI California about issues you think are important or legislation you’d like us to support.
  • Meet with Legislators in your district to talk to them about statewide legislation.
  • Submit personal or affiliate support letters for legislation prioritized by NAMI California. Once we have support letters approved, we will post templates to our website as well as send them out to affiliates via the NAMI CAN! network.
  • Tell us what we can do better!

We want to hear from you. We want to work with you. We want to make your proud. Please be a part of the change happening here at NAMI California and get involved!

Thank you,

Caliph Assagai, J.D. Legislation and Public Policy Director NAMI