At the end of June, I had the privilege to travel to the beautiful city of Washington D.C. for the NAMI Convention 2017. As a first time attendee of this particular convention, I had no idea what to expect out of the experience. However, I can certainly say it far surpassed the expectations I had going in.
As you can see from the featured photos, I connected with over 20 other Wisconsin affiliates during the event. Like any time I’m able to connect with my fellow NAMI community, this was a great opportunity to touch base and hear what other affiliates are up to around the state.
The convention started with a BANG as over 1,000 mental health advocates stormed Capitol Hill for NAMI’s Hill Day. This enormous advocacy day was a chance for all attendees to share their personal stories and experiences with the Senate and House of Representative offices. As a group, Wisconsin attendees met with staff representatives from Senator Ron Johnson’s office, and then again with Senator Tammy Baldwin’s office. Afterwards, we split up into smaller groups to take on our House of Representative’s offices. I was honored to be part of the group who met with the Speaker of the House himself, Paul Ryan. It was a surreal experience, to say the least.
The overarching goal of each meeting was centered around the recently proposed Medicaid cuts, which was presented in the recent health reform bill. NAMI’s timing could not have been any more perfect with the upcoming Senate vote. Attendees shared personal stories that emphasized the importance of proper mental health care. I left each meeting feeling empowered to continue initiating change.
After Hill Day, the convention itself truly began. There were a variety of workshops and seminars full of information related to mental health research, policy updates, affiliate support, and much more. Each breakout session I walked away from, I left with brand new ideas and thoughts to bring back to my team at the NAMI Wisconsin office.
Overall, I could not have asked for a better experience while in Washington D.C.. If you ever have the opportunity to attend a NAMI Convention, I urge you to do so! I left feeling hopeful for the future and motivated to work harder than ever.
Written by: Jamie Gurgul, Communications & Events Director