In 1984, a small group of individuals came together to support each other and find help for their family members living with various types and degrees of brain disorders and mental illness. Two years later, the members decided to make the group an official non-profit and on February 19, 1986, FAMI (Family and Friends Allied for the Mentally Ill) was incorporated. Through the 1990’s, FAMI became a recognized agency throughout Lorain County as they met with mental health professionals to gain additional information and coping skills that were then shared with caregivers and family members locally through education series and support groups. As the organization progressed in its mission, FAMI aligned itself with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and in doing so changed its name to NAMI of Lorain County.
As NAMI of Lorain County moved into the new decade, the year 2000 found the organization with an added objective – advocacy. Ohio House Bill 53, Insurance Parity for mental health and addiction services (behavioral health) to cover treatment/services at no greater cost to the insured than blood pressure, migraines, or diabetes, their health coverage does not change limitations on treatment based on the illness. This was not true with mental illness. There are limitations on treatment and visits. Ohio House Bill 53 would change this. It took time, however House Bill 53 passed on March 3, 2015 with NAMI’s help. Through those years, NAMI members wrote letters to state representatives and other legislative members in support of the bill.
In 2012, NAMI realized that a high percentage of individuals that would cycle through the jail and legal system were suffering with mental illness. On medication, one would feel good so he or she would stop taking their medicine, feeling back to normal, then make bad decisions, such as drinking or fighting, end up in jail and have to begin again. NAMI organized a luncheon that would bring local law enforcement and local judges together for a presentation on “What a Mental Health Court and Expanded Crisis Intervention Team can do for Lorain County”. The information was well received and with the support and leadership of Judge Jim Maraldi, a Mental Health Court was established for veterans of Lorain County. This special court began in September 2013.
In 2015, a new program was launched called the LOSS Program (Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors) as evidence has proven that an individual’s risk of dying by suicide increases 65% after the death of a family member or close friend by suicide. LOSS follows a national model developed by Dr. Frank Campbell in 1986. Dr. Frank Campbell’s work is based upon Dr. Edwin Shneidman’s concept of “postvention as prevention”. Dr. Campbell envisioned a “LOSS Team”, a team of trained survivors who would go to the scene of suicides to disseminate information about resources and be the installation of hope for the newly bereaved. The LOSS Team/NAMI of Lorain County are members of the Lorain County Suicide Prevention Coalition and work with the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation, and other LOSS programs in Ohio.