NAMI Wayne and Holmes Counties was incorporated as an Ohio Not-for-Profit organization in 2000 and with this became the local NAMI Affiliate. Simultaneously, the mental health consumer group organized under the name Advocates for Mental Health. Both groups operated separately until 2008 when the local Mental Health and Recovery Board asked the group join forces to make better use of administrative costs. This was a good fit as the mission of both organizations was to advocate for and support recovery of mental health consumers, and provide education and support to family members and loved ones. With that change, the organization became the Wayne-Holmes Mental Health Coalition; then NAMI (national) required all state and local NAMI’s to re-apply to be an affiliate and in that, our legal name again became NAMI Wayne and Holmes Counties. We completed that re-affiliation process in 2016 and have that latest certification as a local NAMI Affiliate.
In order to fill a gap left by state funding cuts that caused the shutdown of a day treatment program, we pursued a location that would accommodate operating a daytime mental health recovery center. In early 2010, we moved to a large Victorian House owned by the Wooster Presbyterian Church where daily programming for persons with mental illness could be provided. The house had previously been the parsonage for a church minister so in exploring a name for the place and the program, it became MOCA House (Manse on College Avenue). The organization is certified with the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OMHAS) as a Peer Run Organization (PRO) (previously called a Consumer Operated Service (COS).
With the support of the First Presbyterian Church and an award from a joint service club financial award (Wooster Rotary, Kiwanis, & Lions Clubs), we were able to prepare the house for recovery activities and office space. The Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation (MCMF) provided funding to operate the MOCA House program for the first two years, helping us purchase a van the second year. Transportation is a vital component to serving the people who need recovery services in our rural counties as isolation and transportation are huge barriers to getting needed support.
We operated out of that house for six years with no formal Executive Director until 2012. In that time the MOCA House program grew to the point we knew it was time to think about a larger facility. By chance, in late 2015, some state capital dollars became available; so in partnership with another organization that provides clinical services, we applied for these capital funds to purchase and renovate an 8000 square foot building. We were able to move into this new Facility in April, 2016. We now have a permanent home for the organization with 5000 square feet of space for the MOCA House program, family education and support, suicide prevention programs, and our administrative offices. This was all possible through a Capital Campaign, and with the help of (MCMF) Peg’s Foundation and the local Noble Foundation which helped us meet the required dollar match to the state. We feel blessed to be in this space that meets our programmatic needs and that we don’t have a mortgage.
With all of these changes, our NAMI Affiliate has continued to grow in activity and membership. The Board of Directors has grown to 12-15 members to provide persons with skills needed. In 2013, our Annual Gathering (Board’s Annual meeting) had 30 persons in attendance for a picnic in the back yard. Today, we attract 160+ persons to this event where we serve a nice hot meal and provide a speaker on the topics related to mental health. This is an event we are committed to growing to provide the larger community with information.
Programmatically, we have grown to serving 20-25 persons in the MOCA House program daily. We are the local chapter of the Depression Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) offering two of those groups weekly, and we teach the Best Practices program Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) program regularly and provide NAMI Connections support groups as well. Our calendar of activities is available on our website.
For families, we teach the Family to Family education program twice annually to serve both the English and Amish communities and we provide an ongoing family support group.
Another NAMI program we oversee is the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training for law enforcement personnel. In addition to the 40 hour CIT program, the Advisory Council for CIT has developed and offered additional one-day advanced trainings and one-day trainings for Fire and EMS personnel. This planning group has also grown and is very active in meeting the needs of our front line responders related to understanding mental illness, de-escalation techniques, and self-care.
The local Suicide Prevention Coalition is another program under the NAMI umbrella. As the fiscal agent for this coalition, NAMI is involved in this effort and has an oversight role. NAMI staff facilitates the People Affected by a Loved One’s Suicide (PALS) Support Group and a LOSS Team (Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors), reaching out to families immediately when there is a loss to suicide.
For several years, the organization hosted the Warriors’ Journey Home Healing Circle program for veterans and/or their families. This program has recently moved their meetings to a local church. We still support the group’s effort but they no longer meet at our facility.
We are unique among NAMI affiliates by operating the MOCA House Recovery Center, being the Suicide Prevention Coalition in addition to the NAMI family education and support and CIT programs. We have been successful in blending all of this in our community as everyone has the same goal of recovery and health for all. Our mission is to “Provide a place of safety where all persons affected by a mental health concern feel accepted and can build hope through peer based programming, and to deliver education, suicide prevention, and support to family members and the community.” As with all NAMI Affiliates, our services are free to anyone regardless of culture, race, socioeconomic level, religion or sexual preference.
Approximately half of our funding comes through the local Mental Health Recovery Board and we are supported by both local United Ways. The remainder comes through our active fundraising efforts and grant writing. We continue to seek new funding to provide for sustainability and growth of the organization and our programs. Our main fundraiser in our annual WALK for Wellness that takes place in May as part of Mental Health Awareness Month. We also send an Appeal Letter to local supporters annually; we have a pizza sales fundraiser each year for delivery on Super Bowl weekend, and lastly, we hold an Art Auction every other year from our active arts program. We generally get a grant from NAMI Ohio for CIT annually. Our Annual Gathering in August is not a fundraiser but is the Board’s annual meeting and serves to bring the community together and provide education on mental health issues. As well, we frequently write grants for special projects and needs. Examples of this include funding for transportation (van) program costs, parking lot repairs, billboards, and the Health and Wellness program within MOCA House.
We're excited to see what the future holds for our organization. With a strong history and volunteer base, and support from people like you, we can continue to improve the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness!