The organization that we know today as NAMI Wood River Valley (NAMI-WRV) is the result of the efforts of a few courageous parent leaders, many families, and individuals; friends and professionals that worked hard to give birth to an organization that would completely change the way we view mental illness. During that time families dreamed of the day when a child with schizophrenia would be treated no differently than a child with another chronic illness like leukemia or mental retardation. They hoped for a time when mental illness could be discussed openly and their ill children and family members could be properly cared for in their own communities. We take this for granted today. Accomplishing these simple goals, however, would not be easy.
For NAMI-WRV, it all began when Tewa Evans, founder of a NAMI affiliate in the Virgin Islands in 1988, came to Idaho and saw the need for mental health awareness in the Wood River Valley. She got together with other members of our community, Greg Halverson, Kathryn Olson, and Angela Hicks-Pankey, and, on January 22, 2001, they incorporated NAMI – Wood River Valley, Inc. Together, they affiliated with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), an organization that turned into a national movement to inform and educate the country about mental illness and advocate for the rights and care of mentally ill family members. It is an organization that has changed the way we think about, treat, and care for mental illness forever. They were joined by many other parent-leaders, families, individuals living with mental illness, and supporters from the Wood River Valley over the years.
Since its inception in 1979, NAMI has established itself as the most formidable grassroots mental health advocacy organization in the country. Dedication, steadfast commitment, and unceasing belief in NAMI’s mission have produced profound changes. NAMI has been the driving force behind a national investment in lifesaving research, parity for mental health care, increased housing, and to ensure that treatments and services are available to those in need when they need them most. NAMI awareness efforts have successfully addressed the stigma of mental illness, ensuring the decrease of barriers to treatment and recovery. NAMI’s signature education programs have served as a beacon of hope for hundreds of thousands of families and individuals.