In 1980, Norma McLaughlin, with the local mental health center, attended a conference where she learned about NAMI, National Alliance on Mental Illness. Returning to Hernando County, she shared this information with members of the community. The idea gathered momentum and soon many were involved providing speakers, going on camping trips and holding support groups. NAMI Hernando was incorporated in December of 1985.
Jack Holmlund was the first Board President of NAMI Hernando followed by Steve Koss, Joe Ferraro, Frank Terkovich, Evelyn DeHart, Darlene Linville, Judy Thompson, David Welch, Dawn Wever and our current President David Lambert.
NAMI Hernando quickly recognized the critical need for housing. Frank and Marge Terkovich traveled to Washington, D.C. to research government funding through HUD and NAMI raised $2,500 to hire a grant writer to help make that dream a reality. The HUD contract was awarded to the local mental health center known to us now as BayCare Behavioral Health. NAMI, worked closely with the mental health center and the architect to make sure that the apartments would be a reality and a home away from home for the people who lived there. The Portillo Road Apartments are the result of the community partnership between the local mental health center and NAMI.
After intensive training, Carol Trayer and Evelyn DeHart became the first Family to Family teachers. After four years, they were followed by Earl and Darlene Linville, Bill and Judy Thompson, Mariann Eckman, Brenda Firth, Fraser McNeil, Carolyn Stewart, Anne Marquis, Robert Villarrrubia, and Lori Morrison. Over the years NAMI continued to expand the education classes and support groups they offered. Peer Mentors, Marie Goodwyn, Ann Hines, Sal Rotella and Marcia Fulvi, were trained to teach Peer to Peer. Adell Sanchez, Dawn Bloxom, Richard Kinney and Tina Kinney were trained to teach NAMI Basics.
There have been three centers in Hernando County with the current center called the Beautiful Mind Center on Spring Hill Drive. The Center provides a welcoming place for education, support, advocacy empowerment and outreach efforts as well as skills training free to the community. The Beautiful Mind Center is funded solely by grants, donations and community fundraisers.
In 2007, NAMI became involved in a community discussion regarding the large number of people with mental illness in our jails and prisons. These offenders found themselves involved in the criminal justice system for non-violent crimes related to their mental illness. In May of 2008, the Mental Health Court was formed in an attempt to divert those offenders away from jail and into treatment. We look forward to a future where mental illness is talked about as openly as other illnesses like diabetes and heart disease.