Last Friday morning as I made my way along the very dark, foggy, rainy road, toward Albany at 7:00 a.m. and a cute little bunny hopped onto the road—seemingly drawn to my tires no matter which way I turned the car—and I squashed his cute furry little head into the asphalt, I should have known that the weekend might not be all that I'd hoped.... But I chose, at the time, to somehow take it as a good sign—I had, after all, just created four potential rabbit’s feet.
I was on my way to Albany to present Where Are the Cocoa Puffs? to the NAMI-NYS conference and to present myself as one of the individuals running for a board seat. It was an hour out of Albany when I was pulled over for a blown headlight and ultimately issued a ticket for an expired inspection sticker (it’s a long twisted tale of headlight woe, which I won’t go into now) that I began to mildly question the weekend. But I turned the ticketing event into a book selling opportunity and handed the fine young officer one of my cards and plugged my book. I continued toward Albany.
As some of you may know, I’m a board member of NAMI Syracuse (National Alliance on Mental Illness). A few months ago, I was forwarded a moving letter calling for our NYS members to consider running for the state board. Although I am not politically inclined, I thought it would be a wonderful way to pay back some of what NAMI has given me. I was warned and aware that all was not well at NAMI-NYS. Nonetheless, I decided—perhaps foolishly—to plunge ahead. I went to Albany with a wide-eyed, idealistic ignorance. The issues run much deeper and are much more toxic than I could ever have imagined.
As it turns out a dead bunny is not a good sign—although it was a great weekend for Cocoa Puffs, it was not so great for Karen. I nailed my presentation for Where Are the Cocoa Puffs?and they sold all the copies NAMI-NYS ordered; but you would not believe the subtle nuisances I was forced to endure. In the short time that I was there, getting to know these people, I could sense the deep and underlying illness at the state level; and I found myself wondering, before I even knew the results of the election, what I might have gotten myself into. The results of the board elections, on Saturday, unfortunately, were not surprising. All the past board members, but one, were voted back in. And the tyranny continues.
It saddens me that the NAMI-NYS Board is, and continues to be, so dysfunctional—especially when I know how rewarding and inspiring it is to be on a fully functioning NAMI Board. Even though there was still talk of me running next year, there were things that transpired that left such a bitter taste in my mouth that there is no way I can stomach what is apparently necessary to penetrate the entrenchment of this board. I am so very grateful that I was not elected, but disappointed by the fact that I didn't get a chance to publicly refuse that board seat and let people know why I would rather chop off my right hand than get myself into that venomous mess!
I must have one of those faces that people just want to come up and tell me things. By the time I left on Sunday, you would not believe the things people came up and told me concerning the alleged corruption at the state level: misappropriation of funds, election tampering, threats of litigation, unethical practices, blatant manipulation, bullying and coercion—and on and on.
I love NAMI. It is an organization primarily run by individuals who have already had their share of stress and sorrow. It is an organization that should be run on compassion and desire for change. There are so many wonderful affiliates in NYS and so many wonderful things being done, but NAMI-NYS is sick and bleeding out. The time has come for the affiliates in NY to stop either: rolling over—feet in the air, bellies exposed—or turning their backs in apparent indifference. What’s happening at the state level is a travesty. How can we begin to heal something that is so broken? Perhaps it must be broken down fully, swept away, and rebuilt.
And so, dear readers, I am appealing to you. Paste the link to this blog entry anywhere you think reasonable; contact NAMI National (Lynn Borton, Chief Operating Officer: email@example.com or ph#703-524-7600) and ask them what’s up with NAMI-NYS; contact NAMI-NYS Board of Directors (firstname.lastname@example.org; address: NAMI Board of Directors, 260 Washington Ave., 2nd Floor Albany, NY12210) and say, "Shame on you!”
The time has come for this organization to heal and recover from its dysfunction; and to fulfill its mission statement: "To improve the lives of persons with mental illness and their families through education, support, advocacy and research, to achieve the highest possible quality of life." Its mission is not: “To maintain control and power at the state level by whatever means necessary.”