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Professional News
New NAMI Leader Vows To Strengthen Liaisons
Psychiatric News
Volume 39 Number 19 page 14-14

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 News.

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 possible."

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 6.FIG1

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NAMI Executive Director Michael Fitzpatrick: "One of our primary issues is access to care—we know that treatment works if people can access it." 

The walk is a fundraising event held in 39 states to raise awareness around mental illness.

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, Inc.

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 noted.

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 emphasized.

Information about the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill is posted online at<www.nami.org>.

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NAMI Executive Director Michael Fitzpatrick: "One of our primary issues is access to care—we know that treatment works if people can access it." 

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