Macon County commissioner Ronnie Beale brought home the 2013 John Baggett Award earlier this month from the annual NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) North Carolina conference held in Raleigh.
Named after NAMI North Carolina's first executive director, the John Baggett Award is given each year to recognize the local community effort of a non-member on behalf of people living with mental illness and their families.
“I appreciate this award and this recognition,” said Beale. “There were a lot of other deserving people across the state. I also appreciate the support of this board when it comes to mental illness and the efforts to reduce the effects in Macon County.”
NAMI NC is a nonprofit organization that is part of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. NAMI focuses on mental illnesses that are brain disorders, including schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorder (manic depression), obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder and others. For children, the list also includes attention deficit disorder, autism and pervasive developmental disorder.
Membership in nearly 40 affiliates in North Carolina consists of family members of people who live with mental illness, individuals who live with mental illness, friends, and professionals.
NAMI Appalachian South, the organization's local chapter, nominated Beale for his tireless efforts for families in Macon County living with mental illness.
“Mr. Beale established the Macon County Mental Health Task Force five years ago,” said Ann Nandrea, president of NAMI Appalachian South. “This task force is unique in North Carolina and has brought together a group consisting of representatives from many county departments plus providers, law enforcement, Department of Justice, schools and others to address services to individuals and families dealing with mental illness.”
Nandrea touted the task force Beale spearheaded and its contributions to the community. “This team continues to meet regularly to identify problems and work toward solutions,” said Nandrea. “Mr. Beale has also helped establish a crisis team, services in our jail and supported CIT training at the local level, and has advocated for additional beds and increased funding on the state level. He has supported our local NAMI affiliate with his personal gifts and helped obtain space for our meetings and classes. He has complimented our affiliate by saying publicly, 'NAMI Appalachian South accomplishes amazing things on a shoestring.'”
In addition to his work locally in Macon County, Beale was recognized by NAMI for his work regarding mental illness in the state during his tenure with North Carolina Association of County Commissioners, where he has served as the chair of the Human Services Steering Committee.
“Simply said, when it comes to the impact of mental illness on individuals and families, he gets it,” said Nandrea.
In addition to being recognized at last week's county commissioner meeting for receiving the state award, at the request of Nandrea, Beale made a motion to designate Oct. 7-13 Mental Illness Awareness Week in Macon County to increase public awareness of mental illness and the effects it has on families, individuals, and the community.