As we near the halfway point of 2023, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on a milestone that I recently passed - 15 years as Executive Director of NAMI Montana. I am filled with a deep sense of gratitude and wonder as I look back on the journey we've embarked on together and the steps that we've made.
When I began the role of Executive Director 15 years ago, I was an attorney with little experience in the mental health field other than advocating for improved mental health screenings for Montana National Guard members after my stepbrother's death. Yet, the NAMI Montana family welcomed me with open arms, believing in my commitment to elevate the voices of Montanans living with mental health conditions, and their families.
We've navigated through numerous challenges and changes over the years, from fluctuating state funding to shifting political administrations, yet our resolve and unity have never wavered. Together, we've made significant strides in state and federal legislation, amplifying our advocacy for mental health services and breaking down barriers to access. It's been amazing to be a part of that collective strength and relentless determination.
It has been an honor to stand with you during the good times and bad, just as so many of you have been there for me. Our shared moments of heartbreak, triumph, and resilience have deeply enriched my tenure at NAMI Montana and continue to fuel my drive for our mission. Despite the 18-month burnout rate typical for NAMI Montana state executive directors, I wake up every day excited to see how we can keep delivering more for the people we serve.
Moving forward, I am excited about the potential to expand our reach. Our NAMI support and education programs are flourishing across Montana, like never before. Our new website went on last week and I think that it presents the opportunity to more than double the people we serve through our count resource guides. Some of our state level policy gains in the last legislation session are moving into effect and we have new veterans healthcare legislation pending in Congress beyond the scope of anything I could have imagined when I came to NAMI Montana.
The past fifteen years have been an extraordinary journey, and I am filled with anticipation for what the next fifteen will bring for NAMI Montana and the people it serves. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to each and every one of you - the NAMI Montana board, the Montana NAMIWalk Committee, our hardworking employees, dedicated volunteers, committed policymakers, collaborative researchers, and donors that believe we can deliver.
Your passion, commitment, and resilience have made NAMI Montana what it is today. Together, we will continue to foster a community of care, support, and advocacy for all Montanans living with mental health conditions and their families.