How we Became NAMI Hillsborough
What is known today as NAMI Hillsborough was incorporated in August 1987 as “Tampa Bay Alliance for the Mentally Ill” (TBAMI). Shortly after forming, TBAMI joined NAMI and what is now NAMI Florida in support of their efforts to reduce stigma and improve mental health services, alerting our members to mental health issues/legislation and participating in local committees that examined different aspects of the mental health system.
In addition to supporting NAMI’s efforts, TBAMI (NAMI Hillsborough) offered information, referral, and support over the phone and free support groups for both consumers and family members. TBAMI provided many individuals their first opportunity to talk openly with another consumer or family member.
In 1998, TBAMI (NAMI Hillsborough) received a contract from the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to provide short-term housing for persons with mental illness, one-to-one support, and educational services. TBAMI rented a 2-bedroom apartment and allowed one person to live there rent free in return for helping the short-term residents who used the other bedroom. Many of these short-term residents had just been discharged from residential care and needed a place to live while they looked for more permanent housing.
One-to-one support included help with daily activities and transportation, but far more often involved providing simple companionship to persons who would otherwise have been isolated by their illness. Most of those who provided support were consumers themselves. The educational services were provided by individual consumers who spoke to groups of consumers about their experiences with mental illness and what helped them recover. Further, TBAMI (NAMI Hillsborough) was also able to provide education services for family members utilizing local volunteer speakers with expertise in topics of interest to consumers and family members.
In 1999, NAMI asked all state and local affiliates to include the word NAMI in their names and we became NAMI Hillsborough. From its beginning as the Tampa Bay Alliance, NAMI Hillsborough has worked to help consumers (persons with mental illness) and family members (people who have someone with mental illness in their family) create better lives for themselves.
The contract with DCF lasted through 2008, though residential services were discontinued some years earlier. During the last three years of the contract, the one-to-one and educational services were funded through Project Return, a local provider that received funding from DCF and subcontracted with NAMI Hillsborough.
In 2006, NAMI Hillsborough provided its first NAMI Family- to- Family Class (FTF) and Peer-to-Peer classes (P2P). Family- to- Family, an evidence-based program, and Peer-to-Peer were developed by NAMI and are nationally acclaimed. Since these first classes, NAMI Hillsborough has been able to provide these classes for family members and consumers almost every year.
In 2008, new members joined the NAMI Hillsborough Board, allowing it to become more active and the Board has remained more active ever since then. This increased activity not only allowed NAMI Hillsborough to continue to provide, and in some cases expand, it core services of education, support, and advocacy, despite of the loss of funding from DCF. We increased the number of FTF classes, significantly increased the number of educational meeting and began providing yearly Mental Illness Awareness Week activities and holiday parties for consumers and families.