Our speaker on July 16 was Mary Rose Hayes, the dynamic and informative development manager for the Georgia affiliate of National Alliance for Mental Illness (“NAMI”). Her organization improves access to mental health care for Georgians. Data shows that in comparison to other states in the country, Georgia ranks in 51st place for access to mental health care. Fortunately, Georgians can benefit from the work of NAMI which was recently selected Outstanding Affiliate of the Year among 600 other NAMI affiliates.
Much of NAMI’s work seeks to remove barriers that prevent people from accessing the support needed for recovery. To accomplish their goals, NAMI advocates tirelessly for non-discriminatory access to healthcare, employment, and housing, eliminates stigma, and supports research into mental illness.
In 2020, NAMI Georgia serviced over 33,000 individuals--not including patrons who received assistance from the NAMI help line.
In some counties, there are no mental health providers.
In Georgia, the prison system is the largest provider of mental healthcare in Georgia. Further, in some Georgia counties, there are no mental health providers. As a result, in much of Georgia, a mental health crisis is attended by law enforcement which may not be trained to provide an appropriate response. The consequence leads to the criminalization of mental health issues, the perpetuation of a stigma toward mental health and, on occasion, a physical harm to person suffering a mental health crisis.
Before COVID, 20 percent of Americans had mental health needs. It is estimated that twice as many people need mental health services following lock-down. Among the most vulnerable populations are veterans, youth, and uninsured and under-insured populations.
NAMI Georgia programs and volunteer opportunities may be viewed online at www.namiga.org.