NAMI Southwestern Illinois

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Important Messages

Acting Executive Director
May 4, 2019
Green Ribbon

Hello to our NAMI SWI Members and Supporters

It is with great pleasure that I introduce myself as the Acting Executive Director of NAMI SWI. I have had the privilege of meeting a number of you and working alongside you, and I am impressed! I was a member of the NAMI SWI Board of Directors for several years and enjoyed being a part of the NAMI SWI family. In the past several months that I have been in the Acting Director role, I have come to know the inner workings of the organization.

I am amazed at the passion and dedication of the board members, facilitators, teachers, presenters and other volunteers. They consistently demonstrate commitment and love for the organization and the people we serve. The amount of effort that these volunteers expend addressing the needs of NAMI SWI is incredible. I want to take this moment to thank each and every one of you for your contribution of time and expertise to make NAMI SWI the quality organization that it is.organization that it is.

For just a few minutes, I want to share some information about my personal and professional background. I have been diagnosed and treated for a clinical depression most of my adult life. My condition has been stabilized for many years with the help of medication and therapy. I am grateful to have a doctor I’m confident in, insurance to help with the costs, a very supportive husband of 31 years, and access to information and expertise that came with my 30+ years of working in mental health and substance abuse. I want access to mental health resources for everyone that needs it! I want to see decent and affordable care that is up to par with all the latest trends in treatment. Privilege should not be a deciding factor in someone getting quality behavioral healthcare services, when necessary.

My first experience working with NAMI was in 1980, when I became Program Director for a small residential program for people dealing with a severe mental illness. This home was initiated by NAMI, who received funding from the then Department of Mental Health….boy, am I dating myself. It was a great experience working with the families of the residents. Some of the parents were on the Board of Directors for the program. I am fortunate to have worked in variety of positions and settings; starting with an inpatient, state-operated psychiatric hospital and then going into the community, working for residential and community mental health agencies, and the Department of Mental Health. My last position in mental health was as Executive Director of Community Counseling Center, which is now called Centerstone, in Alton for ten years.

NAMI SWI’s Future

So, enough of that...let’s talk about where NAMI SWI is at, and the path we are taking for the future. We currently have eight support groups and educational classes, seven of which are in operation, and a Family to Family class beginning in June. By the way, all of our programs are free to attend. We have also had several In Our Own Voice presentations, including one in Randolph County and one at SIUE. We have had a major update of our office equipment and software, some of which is still in progress.

The future looks bright for NAMI SWI...we are in step with some major changes coming down the pike. These changes include focusing on diversifying our funding sources (e.g. private sector revenue sources, like donations from individuals and corporate donors who support our mission).

An area of concern that you will hear more about involves advocacy...specifically for those individuals with a mental illness who are inappropriately jailed. This is partially due to a lack of coordination of data between key players in the system and a serious lack of resources needed to respond to individuals in psychiatric crisis, who because of that, get involved with the police. NAMI SWI has formed a Task Force to further evaluate the need for more information and coordination of efforts.

Another big concern is our need to recruit more volunteers. There are so many ways a person can offer help in keeping this organization moving forward on our goals and objectives. If you, or anyone you know, are interested in giving of whatever time you can, we WANT YOU. Please consider not only what you can give from the experience but also, what you will receive in return.

Well, more on these topics next time. Please feel free to contact me with any questions, concerns, a desire to volunteer, or just to share information. My email is: or 618.798.9788 (NAMI Office).

Thanks for all your support of NAMI SWI. I want to invite those of you who are not members of NAMI SWI to join today...we want to expand our family! The fee schedule offers several options for becoming a member, so that there is an affordable price for everyone. Joining as a member is yet another way to support our Affiliate to continue offering free information through our various classes and recovery support groups.

See You Next Time,
Kris Gamm-Smith, M. A.
Acting Executive Director, NAMI SWI

Thank you to all board members, project leaders, members, and volunteers!!!