April goes to DC - NAMI Convention

Welcome to my Go Fund Me account!  Very soon I will be attending the NAMI National Convention at the Washington Hilton in our Nation's Capitol, June 28 - July 1.  The National Alliance on Mental Illness is our Nation's largest mental health organization.                                                               www.nami.org
Take a look at what's happening at the conference:

Here are some fast facts about mental health and NAMI: 

One in five adults experience a mental health condition every year. One in 17 lives with a serious mental illness. Half of mental health conditions begin by age 14, and 75% of mental health conditions develop by age 24. The normal personality and behavior changes of adolescence may mimic or mask symptoms of a mental health condition. Early engagement and support are crucial to improving outcomes and increasing the promise of recovery. 

In addition to someone experiencing a mental illness, family, friends and communities are also affected.
Started in 1979, NAMI is an association of hundreds of state and local affiliates (including Central Florida and the Space Coast) that work in your community to raise awareness and provide support and education that was not previously available to those in need.
Mental illnesses, or brain disorders, include attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
(ADHD), anxiety and depression and more extreme illnesses like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.  NAMI's foundation was built on Education, Advocacy, Listening and Leading all of which will move us forward on the path to proper diagnosis, recovery and living the life we ALL seek to have.

By now you have probably figured out that good mental health is my cause-based focus.  A solid diagnosis, treatment and a happy future are all possible.  As the years go by, I continue to witness this with my own sister, Dawn Libasci who was diagnosed many years ago with bipolar disorder.  She is doing quite well today, but it was a long, and sometimes painful, journey that just didn't need to be.  

As part of this week-long conference, I have registered for Hill Day.  This means a select group of us will take a short bus ride to Capitol Hill to meet with our respective legislators.  Bill Nelson (D) and Marco Rubio (R) will be ready to greet us. What an exciting opportunity to speak directly with those who can help this cause.  

If you are wondering what I'm preparing to say, here are just a few topics I will cover:

1.  Hospitals - The hospitals that you and I frequent for physical health, need to have the same care-based structure, concern and treatment for mental health issues.  I can tell you firsthand, many communities and states are far from treating mental health equally.  The physicians and staff are not trained in any way to handle mental health conditions. There are no special treatment guidelines or even rooms for these patients.  The issues go on and on.  I have had a few visits to various "regular" hospitals in Central Florida over the years with my sister and to say that it was frustrating is an understatement. Essentially, they get you in and out and off to government facilities that are downright scary and, as you can imagine, success stories are few and far between.  I will say, however, these facilities can keep your friends or loved ones safe.  And at the end of the day, their safety is critical.  

2.  Education - The old saying, "knowledge is power" couldn't be more true!  I have done plenty of reading on this subject and I definitely felt more at ease when I knew more about what to do and what not to do for a family member.  When we understand anything that is outside of our realm, we are better equipped to manage and assist.  We are not afraid to seek treatment or help someone who needs to.  I will mention education because I'm a big believer that schools and colleges need mandatory programs.  We don't have time to waste on anything that is an elective.  And what better location to catch something early than where the young kids are most often.  Some schools already have terrific programs from elementary to college and they have proven to be extremely helpful.  We need 100% participation in programs that help administrators and teachers identify the signs of mental illness as well as programs for students to recognize and take action for their own needs. 

3. Mental Health Court  - This is a relatively new phenomenon and it's awesome!  We need Mental Health Courts throughout the country and the Miami-Dade area is making the news with their efforts to relieve our jails of inmates who need treatment, not imprisonment.  If you don't know it already, thousands and thousands of citizens are filling our jails because their out-of-control behavior ended with a crime (stealing food or alcohol to supress their symptoms) or an assault on an officer for trying to assist.  Our jails are full and making it difficult to house the real criminals.  Take a look:

I have spent a lifetime talking with family, friends, neighbors and coworkers and even strangers about ways to get help for themselves or their loved ones, how to understand this thing we call "mental illness" and what the future holds for diagnosis, treatment and living an awesome life!

Here are just some of my accomplishments and ways I stay involved -

1. Dave's House Volunteer/Public Speaker
This organization has a proven model that if you give someone a stable living environment, they can live a normal happy life.  www.daveshouseevents.org.

2. NAMI Family-to-Family Training Class Graduate/ Public Speaker.  This is a nationwide program for any friend or family member interested understanding and assisting their loved one.  I graduated from the class three years ago.  My sister and I have spoken at the Greater Orlando chapter graduating class for the last several years. The families welcome us with open arms.  They have tearful stories, but I know they feel relief when we explain that healing can happen.  And it doesn't take a lifetime like so often healing is described.

3. Mental Health Association of Central Florida

Guardian Advocate Program Graduate
The focus: Patients’ Rights, Your Rights as Guardian Advocate, Baker Act and Related Laws, Medication and Treatment Planning, Mental Health Awareness

4. Unfortunately for many of us - The School of Hard Knocks! Yes, it's true. I lived a lifetime of navigating family arguments about how to handle "the problem," patient challenges with refusing to take medication and inadequate medical providers with many conflicting diagnoses. I could write a book - which just happens to be on my list of things to do! When I look back, I know that the journey to healing should not have taken years for my sister, but months.  I feel in my heart and mind that this can be true for everyone! I just know it....

#5 the NAMI national conference is soon to receive a check mark on my list.

The conference is an investment in my circle of friends and family, my community and those that I don't know and may never.  I'm asking for assistance with this cause as the prognosis and healing for my sister has already occurred.  It's time to move onto others and the conference allows me to have a bigger voice and a broad range of knowledge on the latest in this fascinating arena of health care. I know I will use the experience and my learnings to help many. It's what I do.

Here's the breakdown of my major expenses:
Flight: $282.00
Hotel: $926.00
Transportation: $150.00
Registration fees: $275.00

Your assistance is greatly appreciated.  If there is any way I can help you, just contact me.  The best advice I can give is to reach out! - Everything is better when you talk about it.  

Yours Truly, 

April Chambers

If you would like to follow another great organization, I highly recommend The Kennedy Forum. They are an unbelievable family continuing to do unbelievable things!  www.thekennedyforum.org


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April Smith Chambers 
Orlando, FL