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The Global pandemic that upended our personal lives, shut down much of the economy, closed schools, universities, and many local government agencies and services, did not spare NAMI Vermont. In the early chaos of the COVID-19 developments, we needed to make a series of consequential decisions: As a “non-essential” organization, do we close our doors and all services? Do we continue offering limited programs and events? How do we continue recruiting and encouraging potential volunteers when so many of our services traditionally take place in person? Will this pandemic affect our financial well-being or solvency? Clearly, these questions and so many more needed to be addressed quickly and then communicated with our membership, volunteers, and the public.
We know the power of connection can be a source of help and support for those experiencing a mental health condition. NAMI Vermont provides this unique connection through our sharing of our lived experiences and messages of hope and recovery. NAMI Vermont realized that now more than ever, there would be a need for our services and support, especially as physical distancing measures were put into place and feelings of isolation, anxiety, and depression increased.
In early March, as other states were reporting positive cases, Vermont Public Health officials and Governor Scott warned Vermonters to prepare for the eventual arrival of the virus. NAMI Vermont did just that—we began the process of creating a step-by-step guide of office procedures as well as volunteer event procedures in times of viral outbreaks or other emergency situations. While our office building formally “closed” on March 17, the staff continued their work remotely, remaining in communication with volunteers and members about NAMI updates and services and transitioning our committees and Board of Directors to an online format to ensure business would continue to run as smoothly as possible.
To ensure that we keep our services running and our virtual doors open, NAMI Vermont applied for additional grants and received some financial assistance and donations. But we, like so many other businesses during these times, are also seeing some setbacks, such as fewer donations and the cancellation of our annual Pathways to Wellness Conference and numerous summer outreach events.
We will weather this storm, though, because of our dedicated and generous volunteers who help us bring these services to the far reaches of our state.
During this remote time, our NAMI Vermont family has accomplished so much together. We truly have witnessed that we’ve said it many times and we’ll say it again: You Are Not Alone. If you live with a mental health condition, you are not alone. If you have a family member or close loved one with a mental health condition, you are not alone. If you are a healthcare worker or a Mental Health Provider that wants to see improvements in “the system,” you are not alone. NAMI Vermont is an inclusive family of peers, family members, and providers that support, educate, and advocate so that we can build better lives—together.