Paths to Recovery 2016

A Conference for Families, Friends and Individuals Affected by Mental Illness Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016

NAMI Washtenaw County hosted our annual day-long Paths to Recovery conference to empower and educate the community about recovery from mental illness. This year about 170 people attended the conference, including people diagnosed with a mental illness, their family members and friends, physicians, social workers, and educators. The conference included a keynote speaker, breakout sessions, and many resource exhibits. Breakfast and lunch were provided. There was no cost to attend this conference. Below is a description of the day’s events. Videos from the conference are available on the NAMI WC YouTube page.

The Crisis of Mental Health

Keynote speaker NAMI Michigan Executive Director, Kevin Fischer

Kevin spoke about priorities for NAMI going forward:  help  end the stigma of mental illness & ensure that people get the treatment they need by raising awareness in houses of    worship, schools, and businesses;  continue to work together with other healthcare advocates to promote mental healthcare-friendly legislation at state and federal levels; and maintain integrity of NAMI brand by delivering the evidence-based NAMI programs exactly as written. Kevin also discussed state and federal legislation. A question and answer period followed his talk.

As in years past, we also recognized two people who have earned awards for their contributions towards improving the lives of people living with mental illness: The NAMI Washtenaw County Community Service Award, and The Laura E. Lancaster Volunteer Award.

Washtenaw County Sheriff Clayton and Lisa GentzThe NAMI Community Service Award was awarded to Sheriff Jerry Clayton and Lisa Gentz, program manager for the 24/7 crisis hotline, mobile crisis team, crisis residential facility, and WCCMH Access Department. Sheriff Clayton and Ms. Gentz are acknowledged for their work on police training and system changes that will reduce unnecessary arrests and harm to people with mental illness. Crisis Intervention Team programs have provided important alternatives to the use of force, especially for people living with mental illness. Read more about these award recipients here.

The annual Laura E. Lancaster Volunteer Award was presented to Spencer Walz, our dedicated, tireless, and talented supporter of improving the lives of people who live with mental health challenges and their loved ones.  Spencer’s contributions include sharing his story with teachers, staff, and students through the NAMI Parents and Teachers as Allies and Ending the Silence school presentations, running our bi-monthly Connection support group for people living with a mental health disorder, and serving as a Peer to Peer mentor facilitator for the 10-week education class.  Thank you, Spencer, for giving back in so many helpful ways!

Breakout Sessions

Descriptions from a few of our workshops…

Avoiding Mental Health Crisis with Non-drug Approaches Craig Wagner, author, speaker, educator and freelance editor in the emerging field of Integrative Mental Health presented numerous scientifically proven non-drug therapies that can help reduce symptoms, sometimes dramatically, and help create normalcy while minimizing the prospect of future crises. His recent book, Choices in Recovery, is a highly readable and meticulously researched review of 27 non-drug approaches for mental health. It is the first comprehensive review written specifically for those with mental health diagnosis and their loved ones. Go to for his book.

Helping Youth Prevent a Mental Health Crisis Alison Paine and Bob Nassauer presented  presented information about how to handle a crisis situation and prevent suicide. Prevention includes early intervention and encouraging wellness practices such as participating in healthy activities such as exercise and good nutrition, mindfulness. and talk therapy such as cognitive and dialectical based therapies. There were many powerful questions and comments from the audience.  Because of the concern about the high number of youth suicides of in Washtenaw County this year, this session was very well attended.

Ask the Experts: Panel discussion where conference guests had the opportunity to ask various practitioners questions about mental health and treatment. The panel included: Dr. Lawrence Perlman, PhD., Clinical Psychologist, Laura Struble, PhD, GNP-BC, Associate Clinical Professor in the School of Nursing specializing in Gerontological Nursing, Dr. Sahar Swidan Pharm.D., BCPS, ABAAHP, FAARFM, FACA is President & CEO of Pharmacy Solutions, and Clinical Associate Professor of Pharmacy at the University of Michigan, College of Pharmacy, and Dr. Stephan F. Taylor MD is Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Michigan, and Associate Chair for Research and Research Regulatory Affairs, Department of Psychiatry.

Sharing Information Across Providers presented by Mike Harding, Deputy Director, Washtenaw County Community Mental Health. Washtenaw County is one of only a handful of sites across the nation piloting a new health information exchange (HIE) that allows sharing patients’ health information across providers that are “enrolled” in the system and approved by the patient for participation.  This allows seamless access to records, saving time, eliminating repeated testing, and helps avoid diagnostic mistakes. Protecting patients’ privacy and using information appropriately on behalf of patients are considered essential to the project’s success.  Once this system is evaluated the hope is that HIEs will be rolled out nationally.

  • Board member Darlene Wetzel and Newsletter Editor Lois Maharg welcome guests to the Paths to Recovery conference.

Click to see the complete conference schedule.