DBSA TENNESSEE WAS RECENTLY NOMINATED TO RECEIVE THE DBSA OUTSTANDING STATE ORGANIZATION FOR 2013 AWARD. BELOW IS ONE OF THE LETTERS OF NOMINATION FOR THAT AWARD.
OUTSTANDING STATE ORGANIZATION FOR 2013
As one of the fourteen existing state chapters, DBSA Tennessee is one of the most energetic. The chapter has proven itself active in encouraging local chapters, advocating for mental health and educating and reaching out to the community, both those in need of support and communities at large. The state website, which drew over 10,200 hits in 2013, maintains a complete list of chapters and support groups across the state of Tennessee, including contact information, addresses and meeting times in order to better connect those in need with support groups.
From an educational standpoint, DBSA Tennessee assisted its local chapters with two state meetings. These meetings included educational presentations which introduced chapter leaders to an organization to provide legal assistance to the neediest consumers as well as providing training programs for peer support. These programs proved beneficial to chapter leaders by giving them the tools necessary for successful chapters. The state chapter also recruited participants for Peer Advocate training in July, with chapter members volunteering for training and committing to the success of 2014’s advocacy initiatives.
In 2013, five members of DBSA Tennessee attended the DBSA Peer Advocate Training in Washington, DC. Two trained Peer Advocates represented DBSA at Mental Health Day on Capitol Hill. These members also created an advocacy plan for the state of Tennessee. Additionally, DBSA Tennessee led a campaign against proposed state budget cuts to close all 45 of Tennessee’s Peer Support Service Centers leaving 3500 people per month out in the cold. The campaign included recruiting local chapter members to send Christmas cards to the governor. The statewide goal of this grassroots effort was 300 cards. This campaign was the first concerted effort a statewide organization waged on decisions affecting peer support centers, letting the governor know that our state deserves and needs what peer support centers add to the mental health system in Tennessee. Both the State Director and the Assistant Director serve on the Consumer Advisory Board of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse. DBSA Tennessee was a sponsor for the statewide annual conference of the Tennessee Health Care Campaign, a mental health care advocacy organization. As a sponsor, the state organization provided for two scholarships and maintained a DBSA chapter exhibit at the state conference.
A community outreach effort was initiated by a local DBSA chapter with the encouragement of the state chapter. A coalition between DBSA and a local NAMI chapter to reach the community of Chattanooga resulted in a Mental Health Day (as declared by the mayor) in the city. The chapter initiated a day devoted to mental health including a multimedia presentation and panel of local experts giving a question and answer session and booths set up by local providers. The primary organizer, a chapter leader of DBSA Chattanooga, presented, with multimedia, the steps to creating such a community event at the state organization meeting held later that month. DBSA Tennessee led and supported five local chapters—Chattanooga, Madison, Bolivar, Memphis and Jackson, to participate in radio and newspaper interviews to promote and reach out to the community, including one live in studio television segment.
By and large, DBSA Tennessee’s most impressive accomplishment is their plan for helping new chapters in the startup process. Starting a new chapter can be a daunting task, but DBSA Tennessee has made that process much smoother for those wishing to start a new DBSA chapter. DBSA Tennessee has a solid plan in place for assisting those individuals. This plan includes helping new chapter leaders find a free location for meetings, provides assistance in affiliation and incorporation process with money earmarked for this purpose, assigns a sponsor from an already established chapter to assist the budding chapter leader, gives printed material and information to the new chapter, trains the facilitator and furnishes personal support to the new leader. New chapter locations are listed on the national website under the established chapter sponsoring them. After three successful months of meetings, DBSA Tennessee pays forward a portion of the affiliation and one time incorporation fee for the new chapter. Once the new chapter is established, it then pays into the fund for future chapters. This plan has proven successful in the creation of the new chapter in Murfreesboro which was successfully built to nearly double the initial attendance and has enlisted the financial support of State Representative Scott DeJarlais. Initial work is completed for new startup chapters in Clarksville, East Nashville and Knoxville with interest and steps taken by the cities of Columbia and Union City. Additionally, new support groups have been established in Memphis, Jackson, Madison, and Chattanooga.
DBSA Tennessee is a growing, thriving chapter of the National DBSA organization. With its advocacy for peer support and local chapter startup, community outreach and commitment to peer education, the chapter is, indeed, among the most energetic in the organization.