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Community spotlight: NAMI Fox Valley honored nationally

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There are few places stronger than the Fox Valley in terms of support for those affected by mental illness.

But don’t take our word for it.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness recognized NAMI Fox Valley last week as its 2019 Affiliate of the Year. The local organization, based in Downtown Appleton, is one of about 1,000 affiliates across the United States.

The award was given at the national conference in Seattle.

Maren Peterson, executive director of the local organization, said it’s a recognition that extends to the entire community.

“Even though we as a staff and as volunteers feel honored, it’s the generosity, open mindedness and philanthropy of our community that continues to make this work,” Peterson said.

The local NAMI affiliate is one of the nation’s oldest and largest. It touched 15,000 people last year.

The organization runs a number of support groups for those with mental health challenges as well as for loved ones.

It operates the Iris Place peer-run respite, which offers free short-term stays to those experiencing emotional stress or crisis. Visitors receive support from those who’ve been there and get it.

They dedicate plenty of effort to those who aren’t personally affected.

It’s educational programming aims to build support by teaching what mental illness means within a community — and just as importantly, what it doesn’t.

The organization has had countless small victories and its share of big ones.

In 2004, for instance, NAMI Fox Valley teamed with the Appleton Police Department in the creation of the state’s first Crisis Intervention Team. Officers receive special training and are called into service when signs or symptoms of mental illness present. It’s led to greater dignity and better outcomes when law enforcement arrives in response to crisis.

Peterson said that while the recognition was a welcome affirmation of the work of many, there’s still plenty of room for progress.

Combating stigma remains a critical pursuit.

“There’s still a long way to go, but it’s heartening that our community is willing to learn,” she said.

Services provided by NAMI Fox Valley are free. 

To learn more, visit their website at www.namifoxvalley.org.

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