On Thursday, October 12th at the Chase Center in Wilmington, The Delaware chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (or NAMI) hosted their annual Inspiring Hope conference. The Center was bustling with many key players in Delaware’s state government and healthcare space, including previous Health Secretary Rita Landgraf, the Deputy Director of Medicaid Lisa Zimmerman, the Insurance Commissioner, and other influential individuals. NAMI’s Delaware chapter was founded in 1983 by Jill and Simon Shute, who were also in attendance.
The conference consisted of a preliminary keynote speech by Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Stratton, followed by breakout sessions, an award ceremony, and exhibitors.
During the award ceremony, NAMI’s Board of Director’s recognized key players within the organization for their efforts and contributions to the advocacy and education for Mental Illness. Among those highlighted was Delaware native Peggy Geisler. Peggy received the prestigious “Advocate of the year” award for her many years as a therapist advocating for children suffering from Mental Illness. In addition, as Executive Director of the Sussex County Health Promotion coalition, she has worked to grant families access to treatment and advancing awareness surrounding treatments in and around Sussex County. She has also done work to acquire funding for initiatives in Delaware and the surrounding states.
Following the awards ceremony was the General Session which focused on Healthcare in Delaware: What We Know & Healthy Solutions. Moderated by Rita Landgraf; the panel was kicked off remotely by words from Senior Senator Tom Carper, Junior Senator Chris Coons, and Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester. The panel discussion that followed focused mainly on how care for Mental Illness should be thought of, treated, and supported within not only the government but on a more personal and social level as well, as stated by panelist and co-founder Jill Shute. Senior Policy Advisor for NAMI, Ronald Honberg also chimed in regarding the preservation of the healthcare system. He went on to comment on mental illness in relation to the criminal justice system but ended with the silver lining of the more recent increase in emphasis on early intervention and treatment.
Overall, many facets of the social and political arenas regarding Mental Illness were covered and a lot was learned and identified in the panels and breakouts as not only flaws within each system but solutions on how to improve them and steps to take state-wide moving forward. The conference rang true to its name in “Inspiring Hope” and many seemed to leave the Chase Center on Thursday feeling hopeful for the future of Mental Health Initiatives in Delaware. If you are interested in becoming involved, NAMI’s annual walk will take place on Saturday, May 5th, 2018.
To learn more about NAMI’s initiatives and upcoming events, click here.