Dear NAMI Friends,
In March of 2020, in the wake of COVID, we shut down in-person programs, moved our staff to remote work, and scrambled to ensure we could meet our community’s needs through virtual programming. There was a sea of uncertainty ahead, but we did it. Within two weeks, our programs were virtual. Attendance rates for support groups were up and continued to climb as mental health needs from the pandemic were exacerbated. Our free mental health forums saw record numbers. Companies turned to us to find out how to support their employees’ mental health needs during this challenging time. To say the least, over the last 17 months, we’ve been busy. We are proud of all we have accomplished and beyond grateful to our volunteers who stepped up to ensure we didn’t miss a beat.
But, there are faces we haven’t seen. Both volunteers and participants, who were “regulars” prior to the pandemic, who have not joined us for virtual programming. Perhaps it is the technology divide? Or the impersonal nature of sitting behind a screen? Or the need for privacy that can’t be found in the confines of a crowded home? We may not be sure of the reasons, but we know…there are individuals who are not engaging virtually, and; therefore, not getting the support they need.
With that in mind all along, the staff at NAMI Metro Baltimore has kept one question burning in our brains at all times – can we see each other again? When can we bring back in-person programs and be able to provide the support people relied on, once again? We wanted to do it safely, with the health and well-being of our volunteers and participants at the forefront of our decision. We believe that time is now.
Is everything perfectly aligned for us to relaunch right now? Certainly not. We wish more than anything that COVID was completely eradicated. But we are also worried about the mental health needs of our community and those who aren’t receiving our support right now. We have to move with urgency, and we know we can follow protocols to keep people safe.
I want to be clear – virtual programs are not ending. Virtual programs have their merit. They remove transportation barriers, provide comfort of attending from home, and have clearly been the right fit for so many individuals during this time. But we are here to serve ALL of our community members. Our hybrid model of both virtual and in-person programs will allow us to do just that.
At this link, you can read more about our schedule for September as we roll out in-person support groups. If you have questions, we want to hear from you. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us at email@example.com. Cheers to change, growth, and hope.
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