By strengthening ties with a number of organizations inside and outside of
the mental health sector, National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI)
Executive Director Michael Fitzpatrick hopes to fulfill a number of goals,
including expanding access to mental health services for those who need them
and erasing the stigma associated with brain disorders.
"One of our primary issues is access to care—we know that
treatment works if people can access it," he told Psychiatric
Fitzpatrick emphasized that NAMI and APA share a number of goals, one of
which is to increase the number of psychiatrists available to treat people
with mental illness.
"We are aware that in many places in America, accessing a trained
psychiatrist, especially a child psychiatrist, is difficult," he said."
It has always been NAMI's position that people with mental illness
should be able to reach out to a clinician who is as highly trained as
Fitzpatrick recently collaborated with a number of APA staff to garner
support for "NAMIWALK for the Mind of America," a 5K walk in
downtown Washington, D.C., to be held on November
The walk is a fundraising event held in 39 states to raise awareness around
APA, which is holding its Assembly meeting from November 5 to 7 in a hotel
adjacent to where the walk will begin, is a sponsor of the walk, along with
the American Psychiatric Foundation and American Psychiatric Publishing,
NAMI is a nonprofit organization based in Arlington, Va., and is dedicated
to improving the lives of those affected by serious mental illness. About 250
people pooled their experience and expertise to establish the organization in
1979. Since that time, the organization has expanded its membership to include
more than 200,000 people and comprises individuals with mental illness and
their families and friends.
Fitzpatrick served as executive director of NAMI-Maine from 1990 to 1997
and joined NAMI's national staff in 1999, where he served as director of
NAMI's Policy Research Institute and Policy Team. In addition, from 1994 to
1996, he was active in the Maine legislature, where he served as chair of the
House Health and Human Services Committee.
Last January he became NAMI's acting executive director and in late July
became executive director.
Fitzpatrick pointed out that NAMI has concentrated a great deal of effort
on "stress points" in the U.S. mental health system. For instance,
the organization's staff and affiliates have been working to divert people
with mental illness from jail, reduce the number of suicides in the United
States, improve mental health services for veterans, and lobby for passage of
the Sen. Paul Wellstone Mental Health Equitable Treatment Act (S 486), he
As part of NAMI's Mind of America campaign, Fitzpatrick said, NAMI has
established relationships with "organizations that are outside of the
mental health arena" but that deal with people with untreated mental
illness, such as the Association of County Commissioners and the American
College of Emergency Room Physicians.
"These goals are essential to who we are," Fitzpatrick
Information about the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill is
posted online at<www.nami.org>.▪