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IOOV Examples of Innovative Outreach

You may have heard that In Our Own Voice (IOOV) is now on Facebook. If you haven’t already checked us out, click here and join us! For this issue, we wanted to spotlight three states that are finding creative ways of reaching various groups through IOOV.

IOOV for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing

We know that stigma is an all-too-real occurrence for people with mental illness. But for consumers who also have other disabilities, it is often worse. In 2007, a NAMI member talked with the NAMI Massachusetts Board of Directors. She raved about its offering of education programs.  Then she expressed her dismay at not being able to take part in them. She is deaf, and for the dear/hard-of-hearing (D/HOH) community, even the best education and support groups cannot help them without the aid of an interpreter. Unfortunately, the fee for interpreters can be over $1,000 depending on the services needed and length of time. Many nonprofits simply cannot afford them and do not know where to find low-cost alternatives.

Since 2007, NAMI Massachusetts has made a concerted effort to reach out to the D/HOH. They have just added American Sign Language interpretation to the In Our Own Voice (IOOV) program videotape.  NAMI Massachusetts is the first in the nation to offer IOOV with ASL.

The ASL-interpreted video was made possible with the assistance of the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH) and the Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. “This project took about nine months to complete including research, meeting with providers and deaf and hard of hearing clients and then the production of the video,” said Laurie Martinelli, Executive Director of NAMI Massachusetts “People who are deaf or hard of hearing are an underserved community. We want to reach out and provide education programs and now we can. Our next step in this Project is to train people to be presenters who are deaf or hard of hearing and also have lived experience of mental illness. Then NAMI National will offer the video throughout the country” concluded Martinelli.

This brings visibility of In Our Own Voice to an important and sometimes hard to reach population, further bridging the gaps of communication that separate us. We applaud the work of Laurie Martinelli, Executive Director, and Julie Langbort, Program Coordinator on this ground-breaking endeavor! If you would like more information on how this video was produced, please contact Laurie directly at

IOOV On & Off Campus

Two other states, South Carolina and Michigan, have used Internet technology on college campuses to expand the reach of In Our Own Voice.

Thousands of students nationwide attend college courses “virtually.” Through a web-based connection, they are able to see what’s going on in class, chat to each other and ask questions of the professor. IOOV Presenters in Michigan & South Carolina have given live presentations to students in class while others watched from the comfort of their homes. Online students could post questions which were monitored by the professor, as well as give feedback. Michigan did their first IOOV webcast 5 years ago and South Carolina began earlier this year.

We applaud these two states for their creative use of 21st century resources in IOOV. If your state or affiliate is reaching out in creative ways through IOOV, or you are having success with specific audiences, we’d love to hear about it! Please send your information to Cynthia Evans, Director, In Our Own Voice, at or call directly at (703) 524-7600, ext. 7987.