NAMI/Pasco County — part of the grassroots National Alliance on Mental Illness — is a 33-year-old organization that provides free advocacy, education, support and outreach for individuals with mental health conditions.
In the last year, it has named its first full-time executive director, Debbie Proulx.
And, the organization’s growth has been at warp speed.
It aims to reach all those who need help — a lofty ambition, for sure.
NAMI/Pasco is supported solely by private donations or grants.
It hosts fundraisers.
It has a vision for a NAMI building, where meetings could be held and real-time aid could be provided.
Since Proulx’s arrival, the organization went from having one group meeting per week to having meetings every day of the week.
In 2019, 20 people participated in group meetings. Last year, there were 360.
“And that doesn’t count the emails, the texts, the referrals, the phone calls that we get,’’ said Proulx (whose name rhymes with “true’’). “We are marketing our services. We’re putting out a lot of educational materials, but we’re still not able to help everyone. The need in our area is so great. But we are growing, and we will be able to help more and more.’’
Proulx said NAMI/Pasco is constantly seeking to partner with community organizations, such as churches and youth groups, while finding community members to participate. Its board of directors includes community members from hospitals and civic organizations. Trained volunteers are certified to administer the various programs.
“We are trying to fill in the gaps,’’ Proulx said. “COVID-19 has had a major impact, obviously. We have Zoom programs, but some of the senior citizens don’t have technology, or they are afraid of it. “We have one in-person meeting to help cover that.
“We really want to make sure that people who aren’t being helped know of our service. Sometimes, people don’t have insurance. Sometimes, there’s a wait list of up to six months to see a therapist. “Even though we don’t provide actual therapy, we’re a great placeholder with our programs and support groups until someone can get to see a therapist.
“When we get calls, we refer them to a therapist, giving them three names at random. But, we understand the wait can be very long. In our support groups, you can find like-minded people going through the same thing. Our group members are so open and welcoming. People have told us, ‘This is like a family I’ve chosen.’ ”
What kind of assistance is provided by NAMI/Pasco?
One group member, wishing to be identified by the initials M.M., said the help has been immeasurable.
“NAMI/Pasco literally saved my life,’’ M.M. wrote in an email.
M.M. wrote about being taken in by the group and finding a quick fit.
“(Proulx) welcomed me and treated me like a family member,’’ M.M. wrote. “I have never felt more like I belonged in my life. … Now we have so many groups on Zoom (and) they are the highlight of my day. For many of us, they are the only reason we get out of bed on most days during COVID. I think that many of us would have a deep slide if not for these groups.
“I honestly can’t say enough good things about them. … They deeply care (and) that can’t be faked.’’
Proulx said she is heartened by the feedback.
“People come to us, get into a group the same day and in a week’s time, they’re a completely different person,’’ Proulx said. “They have hope again. It doesn’t mean they no longer need to be in therapy. It means that they’re safe until they’re able to get together (with a therapist). I’ve had people say, ‘I was thinking of suicide. But after coming here, that’s no longer a thought.’ So obviously, that makes you feel like we’re making a difference.
“My personal goal is to have a building where we can do drop-ins, where we can be immediately available for crisis. We can’t get that done right now — and COVID doesn’t help — but it’s in our future. But, what we are doing now is providing as many different programs as we possibly can.’’
NAMI/Pasco County offerings:
- Zoom support groups for those with any mental health condition — Mondays, 3 p.m.; Wednesdays and Fridays, 6 p.m.
- In-person walk and talk, Veterans Memorial in Hudson — Tuesdays, 8 a.m.
- In-person support and friendship, Veterans Memorial in Hudson — Tuesdays, 9 a.m.
- Zoom support groups for those with a loved one who has a mental health condition — first and third Thursday of every month, 6 p.m.
- Zoom chat for everyone — Sundays, 6 p.m.
- Zoom Peer-to-Peer — Free, eight-session educational program for adults with mental health conditions who want to better understand themselves and their recovery, Saturdays beginning in February, 10 a.m. to noon (registration required).
- Zoom Family to Family — Free, eight-session educational program for family, significant others and friends of people with mental health conditions. Saturdays beginning in February, 1 to 3 p.m. (registration required).
- Basics on Demand — Free, six-session online education for parents, caregivers and other family members who provide care for youth age 22 or younger who are experiencing mental health symptoms (registration required, start any time).
By Joey Johnston
Published January 20, 2021