NAMI Northwoods Executive Summary

THE ORGANIZATION – NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) was founded in Wisconsin in the 1970s, with family members gathering around kitchen tables searching for support and understanding for their mentally ill family members. This grew to a national organization with 48 state organizations and more than 600 local affiliates. NAMI Northwoods, established in 2017, is one of those affiliates. While NAMI Northwoods serves Marathon, Lincoln, and Langlade counties, more than 75% of its members are Marathon County residents, and in-person education and support groups are held in Wausau. NAMI Northwoods provides advocacy, education, support, and public awareness so that all individuals affected by mental illness can build better lives. NAMI trains peer volunteers to educate and support those who live with mental illness as well as their loved ones. There is no cost to participants.


THE PROJECT & NEED – Although statistics show 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 5 youth suffer from mental health conditions which would be upwards of 33,000 area residents, NAMI also supports their families which means all Marathon County residents could potentially benefit from NAMI Northwoods services yearly. This is a unique service that only NAMI provides, and it is free to community members. NAMI’s peer facilitated services can significantly alleviate mental health shortages. There are more mental health providers in Marathon County than ever before, however there remain waitlists, limited appointments, and insurance barriers (especially for those with low income). NAMI trained peers and family members are people with lived experience of mental health challenges who therefore offer relatable support to others facing similar issues. Supplementing professional services, the trained peers offer practical coping strategies, emotional validation, and community integration. NAMI Northwoods currently offers support groups, 8 and 10 session educational programs (such as the Family-to-Family class where loved ones supporting a mentally ill family member can find their own support), learning materials, and guidance on how to connect with other community resources. One of their educational outreach programs, Raise Your Voice, is geared toward high school students. The program equips students to work toward reducing stigma surrounding mental health and to function as mental health allies (these trained students identify themselves with a green bandana tied on their backpacks). The Impact100 project being applied for is titled “Today’s Foundation for Tomorrow’s Growth” and builds out NAMI’s infrastructure to enable growth.


USE OF IMPACT100 GRANT FUNDS – A grant from Impact100 would significantly increase capacity for the organization, enabling it to market its services to a broader population and exponentially expand its services. The grant would partially fund three additional part-time staff (currently there is only one). Staff would recruit and engage with volunteers, offer consistent office hours and faster response times to inquiries. The funding will also provide necessary technology for virtual participation in programming and subsidize the cost of print materials (participant manuals, resource material, etc.). Lastly, NAMI Northwoods plans to establish a new independent location; their current location is a shared spaced within a local church. This will increase accessibility and remove any implied connection between religion and NAMI’s programming. The grant would likely be paid in multiple installments (over 2 years).


FUTURE EXPECTATIONS/SUSTAINABILITY – Additional staff will work to diversify funding and further develop educational programming (such as addressing mental health in the workplace with area businesses and expanding Raise Your Voice to more schools).


FROM THE GRANTS COMMITTEE – NAMI Northwoods is a passionate force uniquely positioned to fill in gaps found in traditional mental health care.