NAMI New Jersey (NAMI NJ) is a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness. Through education, support, advocacy and public awareness programs NAMI NJ fosters understanding about mental illness, confronts stigma often associated with mental disorders, advocates for public policies that benefit those affected by mental illness, and promotes research into the causes, treatment and recovery of mental health disorders.
NAMI NJ was founded in 1985 by a group of concerned New Jersey family members who had loved ones with mental illness. At a time following the years of “Deinstitutionalization,” when care for persons affected by mental illness was severely fragmented, this group of family volunteers came together for mutual support, education and empowerment. They advocated for improved treatment and living conditions, not only for their own ill family member, but for all people affected by mental illness. From these modest formative years has steadily grown our present organization, composed of dedicated volunteers in our 19 local Affiliates, covering all 21 counties.
In January 1992, NAMI NJ hired an Executive Director and part time clerical staff. Over the past 20 years the organization’s staff has grown to include 8 full time staff and over 10 part-time program coordinator and outreach positions. The partnership between staff and statewide volunteers has resulted in an ever-increasing number of NAMI NJ volunteers trained to assess the quality of care offered to clients in our mental health agencies and to patients in our State Hospitals. NAMI NJ has trained and empowered volunteers to become family educators, support group facilitators, vocal legislative advocates, and recovery-oriented presenters. NAMI NJ staff and volunteers serve on major governmental policy stake-holder committees.
In responding to the mental health needs of children, adults and families from all economic and cultural backgrounds, NAMI NJ has developed and initiated a broad array of support, education and advocacy programs. NAMI NJ is noted for outstanding cultural outreach, public education and anti-stigma programs. The organization and its leadership have received numerous recognitions and awards for their accomplishments. These accomplishments include award winning Videos – “Documenting Our Presence, Multicultural Experiences of Mental Illness” and “Communities We Serve, Law Enforcement Training.”
Since 2005 NAMI NJ has worked to establish a link with public schools and have developed a key partnership with the NJ Department of Education to provide K-12 educators with “Educating the Educators” (ETE) professional development about mental illness and strategies for building their skills to enhance classroom management. In 2009 NAMI NJ developed the “Every Mind Matters” (EMM) Program in response to the alarming upsurge in the incidence of suicide, bullying, depression, and failing mental health in middle and high school students. NAMI NJ has currently working on developing initiatives to outreach to Veterans and their families.