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#NAMICON15, San Francisco!

It was the NAMI Big-Time!  Thanks to generous help from the High Country Board, Caroline Bond and I were able to travel to San Francisco to represent NAMI HC at the 2015 NAMI National Conference, “Embracing the Future.”

            The conference, July 6th – 9th, was held in the Union Square Hilton in downtown S.F., and attendance topped 2,000 people.  Caroline and I both attended the conference orientation, opening meeting, poster sessions, North Carolina state caucus and closing banquet, and in between these events we split up to take in as many individual sessions as possible.

            One of my favorite presenters was Ken Duckworth, M.D., the medical director of NAMI.  He was engaging, funny, articulate and intelligent both in his presentations of research updates, and in his moderation of other events – a great person to have on the NAMI team.  Dr. Duckworth reviewed a new Canadian approach to Bipolar Disorder called Social Rhythm Therapy, in which a person’s Circadian Rhythms are closely followed, so that they sleep, wake, eat, and exercise in regular patterns that follow a natural 24-hour cycle.  In addition to medications, he also referenced helpful nontraditional therapies such as meditation, yoga and acupuncture.  What I found most interesting was his comment that genetic testing currently being pioneered by a few companies (which presented posters at the convention) would probably be “the standard of care in 5 years”.

            One of these posters, by a company called Genesight, explained in laymen’s terms how this process – known as pharmacogenetics -- works.  A cheek swab provides the sample needed to analyze a patient’s metabolic pathways.  The data obtained can predict how well the individual will process different classes of drugs, and also whether s/he is likely to have an adverse reaction to a drug.  Currently covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and some insurance companies, their tests are demonstrating a 70% increase in effectiveness of medications prescribed compared to non-tested patients.  Genesight’s tests were developed using research from the Mayo Clinic and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

            Genetic testing, along with many other factors, will be part of Precision Medicine, which was discussed the final day at the Research Plenary.  Precision Medicine takes into account variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle for each patient, rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment.  P.M is already being used for some cancers, but will now be applied to many other diseases thanks to President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative, launched in January of this year.

            Caroline and I both benefited from attending the North Carolina caucus, where we met the new NAMI NC president, Jack Register, as well as reconnecting with Brenda Piper, Nicholle Karim and Megan Fazekas-King.  It was clear to us that we have one of the most active affiliates in the state, and that our state organization is also on the ball!

            There were many other highlights to the conference, such as hearing Kevin Hines, one of only 4 people who have survived a suicide attempt off the Golden Gate Bridge and can still walk, tell us his story; and Movie Night, which featured a preview of “The S Word” and a screening of “That Which I Love Destroys Me.”  Caroline brought many materials back from the conference, and we would both be happy to answer any questions any members have about our trip.  It was a very enriching experience, and thank you again to the Board for its help.

-Laura Anne Middlesteadt, NAMI High Country Board Member and Vice President
Psychiatric Service Dogs
Justin G Mikel

Monday, August 3
Watauga County Public Library

Monday, August 3 at 7pm, in the Watauga County Public Library Conference Room, board member Justin G Mikel will present a general overview of the use of psychiatric service dogs (PSD) to aid in recovery from severe mental illness. Topics will include what constitutes a PSD, various tasks PSD perform, and service dog etiquette for the public. 

Our meetings are in the Watauga County Public Library conference room.  Watauga County Public Library in downtown Boone is located at 140 Queen Street, behind Mast General Store.  If you get there before 7pm you will be able to go in the main door.  After that we will enter and exit through the side door. 


A PDF of this newsletter can be found at

National Alliance on Mental Illness, High Country Chapter

828-278-9293 (message only, please leave a message so we can call you back!)

PO Box 2343
Boone, NC 28607

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