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Image  Guyla Daley

Guyla Daley was nominated by NAMI South Carolina.  View the nomination letter from NAMI South Carolina. (pdf, opens in new window)

Each board candidate was asked to answer several questions relating to NAMI and the experience they bring to the board.  Each candidate was limited to 300 words for each answer.  Read Guyla's answers below:

Why do I want to serve on the NAMI National Board of Directors?

I came to NAMI to better understand the needs of our son. I was going to "fix him" and "get on with my life."   In the last decade, I have become a passionate advocate, educator and spokesperson for parity, affordable housing and the decriminalization of mental illness. NAMI has become a part of who I am.

As president of our local affiliate, I have worked to make NAMI a recognized advocacy organization. As a Family to Family teacher, I believe in the power of knowledge. We educate our elected officials, school systems and faith based friends. Our entire legislative delegation voted for parity and to fund a local inpatient mental health unit.

In 2000, I became president of NAMI South Carolina, which had a negative bank balance and no leadership. Through determination and diligence, we raised funds and hired an excellent director. One of my proudest moments was NAMI South Carolina accepting the award as Outstanding State Organization at the 2004 Annual Conference. My background in accounting and experience as a business owner enables me to analyze financial data and establish working budgets. When I became president of our local affiliate in 1997, we had $ 8,000 in the bank. At the end of my term, we had $ 25,000 and owned five debt-free apartments.

As a member of NAMISC Board, I am organizing South Carolina’s affiliate presidents to provide a forum for exchange of ideas, networking, and providing peer support. As president of both NAMI Beaufort County and our local mental health center, I am working with the community to establish a mental health court, and to make sure the concerns of NAMI members are addressed. 

I know that membership means we are reaching people and that increased membership gives us voice. Let’s work together to increase NAMI membership.

What financial management or fund raising expertise would I bring to the Board?

I graduated from the University of Georgia, with a degree in accounting and I worked actively in that field for 9 years. For the past 26 years I have owned and operated a Radio Shack dealership on Hilton Head Island, SC which has expanded to two stores and is my principal business.  Those business skills were used when I became President of NAMISC and learned we had a negative bank balance. After I audited the books, I found that we actually had $40,000 in receivables at the end of the previous year which I was able to collect.  That, along with a $50,000 budget proviso obtained from the Legislature gave us the capital to hire an executive director, a part time assistant and to open an office in Columbia.  We have continued to maintain a positive cash flow.  During both of my terms as President of NAMI Beaufort County we have had very positive cash flow and great fi?nancial records.  A Board can?'t make informed decisions without accurate financial records.

The apartments NAMI Beaufort County purchased were paid for with cash. Under my leadership we raised the funds from grants, the local realtor’s association and a local church sponsored "Tour of Homes". SC has a parity bill in the legislature this year and we needed a lobbyist. I asked a local member if he would finance it and he wrote us a $25,000 check. Fundraising is about building relationships with donors. Individual giving in NAMI SC has increased from $3,000 in 2000 to $30,000 today.  People give to causes that they can see are worthwhile.   It is up to us to convince them they are. I joined NAMI Leadership Alliance in 2004 because I believe in NAMI’s mission and goals.

What is the most pressing public policy issue facing NAMI members today?  What course of action do you suggest?

For me, the most pressing public policy issue facing NAMI members today is insurance parity. Ending insurance discrimination means ending mental illness treatment as we know it.  Today, Medicaid is the single best health insurance someone with mental illness can find. Today, our public mental health system is the single best place to find treatment.

What does this mean?  This means that people with mental illnesses are only able to make as much money as Medicaid will allow, or risk losing that benefit.  This means that during tough economic times the fates of people with mental illnesses will hinge on the degree to which budgets are cut.

Our government does not fund departments of heart, or cancer, but it does fund departments of mental health. Why not cancer and heart?    Medical insurance covers those illnesses.  Parity will mean that others will be willing to offer services because they can get paid for it, just like other diseases.  Even research will be increased because pharmaceutical companies will know that there is a source of payment for their products, just like other diseases.   With parity the money will follow- with money, so will services. As a business person I know that competition drives both choice and quality.  Our mental health systems have no competition, so we are given one choice- take it or leave it no matter what the quality. 

To break the logjam in Congress which is allowing insurance discrimination to continue, NAMI must make increasing membership a priority.  With 250,000 members, NAMI is a force to be reckoned with.  Imagine what we can accomplish with 400,000 members, or even one million members! There are a lot more than 250,000 people affected by mental illnesses. Finding them must be a priority! Then we’ll eliminate discrimination.

What brought me to NAMI—and what is most valuable to me about my participation in the NAMI movement?

Bob and I were married for two months and his son who was 28 moved in with us. He was on Haldol, Paxil, and Lithium with a diagnosis of bipolar. I didn’t have a clue what to do. My first husband was an alcoholic who committed suicide. My son had a friend who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia.  I called his mother who introduced me to NAMI. I wanted answers so I started educating myself.  I read everything I could get my hands on.  I was going to fix him and get on with my life.

I enjoy educating politicians and advocating for people with mental illness.   If it hasn’t affected his/her family, they do not understand. Once they understand (by hearing family stories) they are supportive. Our affiliate has ‘chats’ with our legislative delegation and our county council. Members tell their stories at these ‘chats’. When the local hospital threatened to close the mental health unit, we called the politicians and after much debate the unit is still open.

Since I became an advocate, other family members with mental illness have come forward.  By participating in NAMI I am at the forefront of the latest information on recovery and treatment. I want to see each consumer have the best recovery possible. I enjoy MAKING THAT HAPPEN!.

What is the most pressing internal or organizational issue facing NAMI today?  What course of action do I suggest?

The most pressing internal issue facing NAMI today is stagnant membership.  We cannot continue to make progress unless we continue to grow.  Think about how much progress we’ve made with 250,000 members.  Imagine what we could do with twice that many, or even one million members.

We must work to be recognized nationally as readily as the American Diabetes Association, the Arthritis Foundation, and the Muscular Dystrophy Association. What do they have that we don't? More members! More members mean more money, more recognition, less stigma and most importantly a louder voice with our elected officials. How do we get there? First, we have to make it a priority. Secondly, we have to recognize that activities at the affiliate level are the most effective way to bring in new members. Look at the tremendous job our affiliates have done getting our membership to where it is today.  Next, NAMI National must work towards giving our affiliates the resources and tools to continue to grow our membership.

The issue of membership was driven home for me during the last election. In South Carolina, we had two candidates running for the US Senate. One candidate was in favor of insurance parity the other strongly against it.  When the pro-parity candidate asked me how many members we had and I responded that we have 1,000, her entire demeanor changed.  She wanted to hear 10,000 not 1,000. She wanted to hear that taking a stand in favor of insurance parity meant votes for her on Election Day. I know this scenario has been played out in other states as well, and we must do something about it. By the way, the pro-parity candidate lost.

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