The Florida Mental Health Advocacy Coalition began as a group of peers and family members from Broward and Palm Beach Counties who had attended a NAMI Smarts for Advocacy training and then responded to an invitation from NAMI Palm Beach County to begin to build a network of advocacy groups throughout Florida.
The Advocacy Project, as it was then known, was funded by Allegany Franciscan Ministries for two years, and staffed by a part-time attorney in the NAMI Palm Beach County office. During the first eight months of the project, the initial group met multiple times, learning about the mental health delivery system in Florida; the issues that were most affecting our members; and Florida’s legislative process and mental health policy makers.
After the first eight months, the initial group divided into two separate groups, each with new leaders from their respective counties, The Broward group adopted the name “NAMI Advocacy Group” or NAGs, and included a member from their local Mental Health America affiliate, MHA of Southeast Florida. The Palm Beach group also combined with their local MHA affiliate to create the Palm Beach Mental Health Advocacy Group. Soon, the two original groups were joined by others. Today, the group enjoys representation from 15 local advocacy groups.
During its second year, the Coalition added two more staff: a part-time NAMI Smarts for Advocacy trainer and a part-time lobbyist. Four coalition members attended a NAMI Smarts for Advocacy “Train the Trainer” workshop.
The Coalition functions as the Advocacy arm for NAMI Florida, which has appointed a Board member to serve as a liaison. Both NAMI National and MHA National approved the collaboration of both entities to form the Coalition.