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National Alliance on Mental Illness received 2021 Healthcare Transformation Award!

The Healthcare Transformation Award honors an outstanding individual or organization that actively and compassionately works to transform the health of our community through contributions of time, talent, and treasure.

Garland Mattox had never heard of the National Alliance on Mental Illness until her son became ill. Mattox, a full-time artist who has served on NAMI’s board of directors for seven years, had no idea where to turn for help until a nurse she called in Boston suggested she contact NAMI. “I went to the mailbox that day and got my bulletin from Westminster Presbyterian Church,” Mattox recalls, “and on the back, it said ‘Mondays at 6:15 – NAMI.’ So it was a resource that had been there, but I never knew about it.”

Established in 1986, NAMI Greenville (one in an alliance of 600 local affiliates) improves the quality of life and treatment for those living with mental illness. But it also improves life for their families through education, support, and advocacy. “The most transformative moment for me was when my husband and I took NAMI’s Family to Family course,” says Mattox. As a physician, her husband felt he had little to learn from the class—designed to help families understand mental health diagnoses, medications, the brain, and how to care for struggling loved ones. But he ultimately admitted he learned more about mental illness in those 12 weeks than he had in four years of medical school. “NAMI not only changed our family’s life, it also affected my husband’s medical practice because it opened his eyes. It’s really had a profound impact on both of us, personally and professionally.”

It’s all about connecting people to local resources, asserts Ken Dority, the executive director of NAMI since 2013. Many folks don’t know where to start when they experience a mental health crisis. NAMI not only helps families navigate a health care system that’s not designed with the mentally ill in mind but also connects them to legal resources if needed. Through education and advocacy efforts, NAMI strives to remove the stigma associated with mental illness, which often prevents people from seeking treatment.

“NAMI’s real strength is that it’s a grassroots organization—people with lived experience help others . . . ,” explains Dave Stafford, chief human resources officer for Michelin North America who has served on both the NAMI Greenville and NAMI national boards. “This shared-experience model means that to teach a class or facilitate a support group, not only do you have to go through education to learn how to do those things, but you must have experienced them yourself,” adds Dority. “We start with empathy at the highest level.”

“Ken lives the heart of NAMI every day,” observes Stafford. “He was named Executive Director of the Year by NAMI national in 2020, the same year NAMI Greenville was recognized as the country’s top affiliate.” During Dority’s tenure, NAMI has significantly expanded its reach, in part by establishing partnerships with other community organizations. In 2012, the year he came to NAMI Greenville, Dority saw just over 1,200 people participating across all their programs. In 2020, that number had risen to 8,000.

“We are so grateful to receive this award,” Dority says. “Our staff and volunteers work hard to serve this community and to deliver a message of hope, help, and encouragement. And it all has a ripple effect—when NAMI changes one life, it changes other lives around them.”

“We are so grateful to receive this award,” Dority says. “Our staff and volunteers work hard to serve this community and to deliver a message of hope, help, and encouragement. And it all has a ripple effect—when NAMI changes one life, it changes other lives around them.”

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