Through the Decades
Back in 1978, we said “goodbye” to the Carol Burnett Show & Colombo; Norman Rockwell, Louis Prima, & Hubert Humphrey; the Panama Canal & the Women’s Army Corp.
We said “hello” to the Susan B, the Great Eastern Blizzard, and the first computer bulletin board; the first legal casino in the US, the Camp David Accord, & Love Canal; Grease, Animal House, & Superman-the Movie; Fantasy Island, Dallas, and 20/20.
We were listening to the Bee Gees (and Andy Gibb), the Commodores, and Debbie Boone. You could et a gallon of gasoline for 63 cents, a dozen eggs for 48 cents, and an 8 track tape player for just $169. We still had no World Wide Web, cellular phones, or ATMs. (How did we survive?!)
We’re forty and counting…on you and with you. Thank you for making our first forty so successful!
Part One: The Birth of a Movement
One family's grief leads to help and hope for many.
by Judy Winter – NAMI-Clackamas Board Member
(1978-Milwaukie, OR) Freddie was missing - on the streets again. His parents had asked him to leave because of his highly inappropriate behaviors. Over the past few years he had been struggling with an illness that he was trying to outrun. Self-medicating with street drugs during high school hadn't really helped. His brief stint in the Marine Corps hadn't turned into a career. His actions were scaring his younger sisters and brother and greatly dismaying his parents, Fred and Florence. All six of these family members were grieving and at a loss about how to "fix" it. But for now, the urgent thing was to find Freddie and be sure he was OK.
Then one evening as the family was returning from a dinner out (trying to put some normalcy to their upheaved lives), they noticed a familiar figure. There was Freddie leaning into a garbage dumpster searching for food. While it was shocking and upsetting to see him scrounging, there was rejoicing that he seemed to be OK, if hungry.
In spite of their best efforts, Freddie was unwilling to go home with them. Seeing that his most pressing need was food, his family gave him their leftovers and made arrangements to meet him in the park every evening with food his mom would prepare for him. At least they could see him daily and be assured that he was alive and fed.
Before long, this heartbreaking arrangement had Fred in tears while talking to a therapist at Clackamas County (then Mental) Health. The realization that there must be many other parents overcome with grief and feeling helpless occurred to both of them almost simultaneously. From that beginning point, a close, symbiotic relationship with Clackamas County Behavioral Health was forged.
After reaching out to other families and forming a support group to share feelings and exchange treatment information, Fred and Florence Winter began monthly meetings at Milwaukie Senior Center. At those meetings, participants could at last realize that they were not alone in their grief. They could associate with other families and begin to find ways to help each other and their loved ones. Peer support.
The movement was born and NAMICC's "mother organization", MIND (Mentally Ill Need Direction) was formed. Soon the MIND Support Desk appeared at Dammasch State Hospital in Wilsonville every weekend, where word was spread that "peer support can help" and "you are not alone." The more things change...
Fred & Florence Winter circa 1978
The 1980s saw a continued move toward deinstitutionalization which, combined with the stigma and discrimination that comes with mental illness, served to further demonstrate the need for community-based services to support this soon-to-be-displaced and vulnerable population. Clearly, there was a lot of work to be done and seemingly diminishing resources to achieve very ambitious goals.
With that as its core mission, M.I.N.D. incorporated as a non-profit in 1983 and became the Clackamas county affiliate of the Alliance for Mental Illness (AMI) in 1985, joining the fledgling national organization that was advocating for the necessary resources and services for the mentally ill and their families.
Part Two: The Growth of a Movement
The times drive the need for hope and change.
by Judy Winter – NAMI-Clackamas Board Member
At the same time, local leadership was passed from Fred Winter to Harold Kulm who was elected the volunteer AMI Clackamas president. Although lived-experience support remained the #1 goal as voted by members, Harold also began a push to make AMI known and to make it okay to talk openly about mental illness. Meetings were moved from Milwaukie Senior Center to Rowe Junior High School and later to the lunchroom at Clackamas County Mental Health at Hilltop in order to reach new communities around the county.
In addition to the Family Desk at Dammasch State Hospital, folks during the ‘80s were likely to see AMI Clackamas at the Clackamas County Fair each August thanks to Harold & George Bingham who marshaled dozens of volunteers to offer support and empathy to countless visitors as only those with lived experience can. It paid off handsomely as, suddenly, AMI Clackamas speakers were in demand throughout the human services community.
Thanks in large part to George and his wife Pat, AMI Clackamas also became an outlet for NARSAD (National Association for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression), which raises research funds through the sale of cards and other items bearing the artwork of people with mental illness.
Other support groups were springing up throughout Oregon and began sending representatives to the newly formed state organization, Oregon AMI (OAMI) in Salem, where they began to work with the state legislature. Representatives from groups around the state met with OAMI president Gwyneth Owen. AMI Clackamas was instrumental in those early efforts as Harold often drove to the Capitol daily during legislative sessions, and frequently cornered his representative for coffee chats in Milwaukie.
Around the same time, then-Portland Police Chief Charles Moose authorized a small group of officers to visit Memphis, TN, to learn about training to increase law enforcement officers’ understanding of people experiencing mental illness. A committee including AMI Clackamas member Doris Minard developed a curriculum that included AMI material and initially trained 75 officers. Now called Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), today it reaches law enforcement officers from all over Oregon under the direction of Sheriff Craig Roberts and Clackamas County Behavioral Health.
Expanding outreach to treatment providers, AMI Clackamas began the Corner Store, providing patients and visitors with a small sundries outlet and AMI brochures at the (now closed) Portland Oregon State Hospital where it flourished for many years under the leadership of Morene Condon.
Throughout the ‘80s, AMI Clackamas grew in stature and influence while expanding the education, support, and advocacy that has become the foundation for 40 years of service to those who experience mental health challenges and their families.
Part Three: Housing...Housing...Housing
The 90’s were a turbulent time in the movement to bring mental health treatment and support out of the dark ages. Funding was precarious and unreliable while there was an ever growing need for community based housing and support.
NAMI-CC support group meeting attendance grew steadily necessitating a move to a larger Oregon City meeting space, as well as expansion to include support groups in other Clackamas County communities. NAMI Basics and Peer-to-Peer education classes were introduced to eager families as more and more of them found themselves seeking resources for themselves or their loved ones experiencing mental health issues.
One morning in the late 1998, NAMI-CC president and parent Elaine Krause opened her family room curtains to discover her son asleep on the picnic bench on the patio. He had been homeless for several months as his behavior was threatening to the family. This sight reinforced the growing reality that there was little to no housing available for persons with mental health issues in our county.
Once the communities were open for residency, NAMI-CC also began collecting furnishings for these apartments and putting together baskets of basic household items for residents. Those efforts were later expanded to several additional area group homes and continue today. The result had been an increase in the number of supported beds available in Clackamas County for which the state of Oregon recognized NAMI's work and presented NAMI-CC with a plaque for Excellence in Housing in 2000.
Meanwhile, in Salem Governor Kitzhaber was proposing handing over the building and grounds of the former Dammasch state hospital in Wilsonville to be used as a new women's prison. Harold Kulm, then NAMI Oregon president and his state representative, Jane Lokan, objected and put together HB3446 now referred to as the Dammasch Bill which proposed the sale of this property with the a portion of the proceeds, administered by the Housing Trust, given as incentive grants to groups wishing to sponsor the building of mental health housing around the state and the rest spent on improvements to existing state institutions for mental health. Later a clause was added that made up to 10 acres of this property available for building mental health housing within the new community, now known as Villebois.
NAMI members from around the state were mobilized to send letters and emails to the legislators for several years before this all finally passed and came to be. The land was sold in 2004 and nearly 12 million held in the Housing Trust Account. In addition to helping pay for many homes and fostered the building of three apartment houses and two lovely 5-bed group homes within the new Villebois development.
In addition, in a small park with a lovely fountain near the site of the now-demolished Dammasch building you will find a plaque commemorating NAMI's role in this accomplishment.
We are proud to have played a part in dramatically increasing the number of supported beds in Clackamas County between 1990 and 2005. Sadly, this is still far from meeting the need and the struggle continues.
by Judy Winter – NAMI-Clackamas Board Member
Soon she and Ginny Davidson, being women of action, decided that NAMI would take this bull by the horns and they proceeded to hatch the idea of putting together a series of fund-raisers including a monster garage sale, a golf tournament and a dinner auction to raise funds for housing. Named Hearts for Housing, the combination of events eventually raised over $150 thousand in seed money for purchasing property.
Together with Clackamas County Mental (now Behavioral) Health, NAMI-CC sought guidance through other models around the state and eventually discovered Housing and Urban Development grants (HUD). Soon there was a NAMI/CCMH joint housing committee chaired by long time staff member Susan Johnson and together with NAMI-CC Board President Stephen Loaiza, they organized Oregon leaders (legislators, public housing providers, etc.) resulting in multiple grants totaling over $5million. Through a partnership with Central City Concern and Northwest Housing Alternatives, 3 apartment communities were established specifically for persons in recovery from mental illness in Clackamas County: Fisher Ridge and Meadowlark in Oregon City and Chez Ami near 82nd Ave. in Happy Valley.