NAMI Western Carolina found that Community Inclusion (CI) efforts can combine with an overall contribution to their local community. NAMI NC affiliates’ CI programs focuses on how individuals with mental illness can find natural supports and activities with others in their community.

Chris Fink, Community Inclusion Coordinator at NAMI Western Carolina says it’s been especially challenging for those living with mental health diagnoses during COVID. “Many folks are immuno-compromised and face even greater challenges finding ways to integrate into our communities right now just like all of us,” he says. “To be able to go out and enjoy community events with everyone else, feel welcome, and make a valuable contribution is so important.”

NAMI Western Carolina reached out to other local organizations and created the Helping Hands project. This not only put together a CI program for their members, but through a partnership with United Way of Asheville, Buncombe County, and grant funding through NC Department of Health and Human Services, enabled residents at Richmond Hill Congregate Home in West Asheville to assemble student kits and then deliver them directly to local Community Schools to be given to students who need them most. “This is an effort to bring a productive and valuable experience to the mental health community and help meet a need for our local students, so it’s just a win for everybody,” says Fink.

Interested in learning more about participating in CI efforts in your local area? Community Inclusion expert, Dr. Mark Salzer of Temple University and NAMI NC’s own Mikayla Cardona are hosting the second of a virtual discussion series talking about Community Inclusion (CI) on December 15th. Additional training sessions on becoming a CI Champion are also available.

For more information, and to register, click here.

Special thanks to NAMI WNC and United Way of Asheville for their contributions to this article.

NAMI Community Inclusion Information