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Mental health group makes a comeback

After a years-long hiatus, the Goodhue County affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, has reformed to provide education and support services for people in crisis.

The group will kick off its efforts with a ribbon-cutting ceremony 4:30 to 6 p.m. Monday at Christ Episcopal Church in Red Wing.

“We basically champion justice, dignity and respect for people with mental illness and their families,” said Dale Hanson, the new board president of NAMI Goodhue County.

Entertainment at the event will be provided by Phil’s Harmonics, an ensemble of vocalists and acoustic instrument players led by Phil Martin with the Goodhue County Social Services department.

The band comprises area “consumers,” a word Martin said he prefers to use when describing people who are managing symptoms of mental illness.

Martin, who worked with the previous NAMI organization in the county, praised the group for providing a resource to area residents.

“It’s a great organization, both in terms of advocacy as well as support for people with mental health problems,” he said.

NAMI Goodhue County started fundraising and outreach efforts last month, appearing at the Red Wing Diversity Festival and annual NAMIWalks event at Minnehaha Falls Park in Minneapolis.

The local group brought in just over $1,000 for the walk, Hanson said.

He added that the affiliate’s next step will be forming a monthly “connections group” to provide peer support for adults facing mental illness.

“It’s not therapy,” Hanson said. “It’s more designed toward problem solving and just dealing with everyday issues.”

The first meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov. 4 at Christ Episcopal Church.

Early interventions

Much of NAMI’s work emphasizes early diagnosis and treatment, Hanson said, noting the average amount of time it takes someone experiencing mental illness symptoms to seek treatment is around a decade.

“If you have a 15-year-old who is struggling and it takes them 10 years to get help, by then they’re probably in the justice system somehow,” he said. “Probably in jail.”

As many as 70 percent of kids in the juvenile justice system have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder, according to a 2006 survey by the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice.

To help keep kids out of trouble, NAMI Goodhue County will partner with Red Wing Youth Outreach to host youth mental health support groups every two weeks.

“That will be a tremendous addition for us,” Hanson said.

Saying goodbye

Monday’s event also will honor Bob Glasenapp, the retiring director of the Goodhue County Mental Health Center.

“He is someone who has a really strong commitment to helping people with mental illness in the county,” Martin said.

Hanson said he first met Glasenapp a few years ago while having a mental health crisis of his own.

When a therapist recommended he rest a few nights at St. Marys Hospital in Rochester — but was too worn out to get there himself — Hanson said Glasenapp offered to drive him down and later pick him back up.

“I don’t know how you thank a guy for something like that,” Hanson said.

Glasenapp provided a useful referral and support network for NAMI in the past, Hanson added, and he hopes to continue that relationship with the Mental Health Center moving forward.

Founded in 1979, NAMI is the largest grassroots mental health support organization in the U.S., according to the group’s website, and spawned hundreds of state organizations and local affiliates across the country.

The national and state NAMI organizations give local groups advice and resources ranging from fundraising guidelines to training programs, Hanson said.

NAMI Minnesota recently sent the Goodhue County affiliate a free distribution of mental health booklets and factsheets, which were put out for the public at different locations around town, he added.

“The whole idea is to get people as educated as possible,” Hanson said. “We just keep working at it.”

If you go...

What: NAMI Goodhue County grand kick-off and Bob Glasenapp retirement tribute

When: 4:30-6 p.m. Monday Oct. 14

Where: Christ Episcopal Church, 321 West Ave.

Cost: Free 

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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