NAMI Merced was founded prior to 2006, by the work of two dedicated local women, Belinda Foutz and Ida Mae Frade. They joined together to teach the Family to Family class once per year as each had family members affected by serious mental illness and wanted to help other families in crisis. In 2006 NAMI Merced County was incorporated into a non-profit organization dedicated to providing support, education, and advocacy throughout Merced County on behalf of individuals, families, and friends affected by mental illness.
Since 2006, NAMI Merced County has blossomed under the leadership of presidents Mary Hofmann, Jan Morita, Kristi Rieg and Myisha Reed. Volunteers facilitate at least two 12-week Family-to-Family classes each year. The Spanish Family-to-Family class is also available. Local support has expanded to include bi-weekly Family Support Groups, a 10-week Peer to Peer Recovery class for those living with a mental illness. Weekly Connections support group is offered during the weeks that Peer to Peer classes are not held. Another presentation that is offered to schools is Ending the Silence and is designed for students, school staff and parents. Parents and Teachers as Allies is also offered to schools.
In 2016, NAMI Merced County created a video about the importance of family and consumer education in the lives of several local families that has been well received. NAMI Merced County operates with the support of memberships, donations, contract support from the Merced County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, and small grants from NAMI National and NAMI California. A grant from Dignity Health and a major gift from Child Support Services enabled us to rent a small space at Vault Works, Main and N Street in Downtown Merced. The combination of funding also supports the Director position currently held by Tatiana Vizcaíno.
In 2019, additional Ending the Silence facilitators will be certified and available for school presentations. Several individuals will be attending the Mental Health 101 facilitator training. The goal of this program is to train individuals who represent a variety of different cultures and identities to help decrease the stigma associated with mental illness. During the summer, we plan to offer NAMI Homefront, a free, 6-session educational program for families, caregivers and friends of military service members and veterans with mental health conditions.