NAMI Northern Nevada Historical Timeline
Interesting in learning more about the history of NAMI Northern Nevada? Two of our local leaders Joe Tyler and Jerry O’Brien helped put together a timeline of major events leading to our present day affiliate.
1979 – Mrs. Custer, the sister of a northern Nevada philanthropist arrived in St. Louis for the first ever meeting of an organization called Alliance for the Mentally Ill (AMI).
1979 – Locally in Nevada, Verna Weber began to host informal meetings at her home for families affected by mental illness. At the time, Verna did not know that AMI, which was referred to as “friends of the mentally ill,” existed. Verna gave of herself generously through food and stocking bags for the Northern Nevada Adult Mental Health Service (NNAMHS) Drop-In Center holiday celebrations.
1989 – Sue Brune became our first Newsletter Editor. She and her husband, Jim Brune, remain the affiliate’s largest single-family donors, and are still active after 27 years. Sue has continued to serve in the mental health community for the past two decades.
1991 – AMI of Northern Nevada members Rod Farrell and Joe Tyler founded the Mutual Help Support Group for peers and family members at Washoe Medical Center.
1992 – Rosetta Johnson received funding from both the Nevada State Legislature and other philanthropists for a program now called Family-to-Family. Rosetta spearheaded raising $75,000, and organizing two of the AMI of Nevada conventions in Las Vegas and in Reno. Ms. Johnson also advocated and won passage of a legislative parcel referred to as the Program for Assertive Community Treatment (PACT) in Nevada. The work of mental health and homeless intersection was assisted by Senator Townsend, whose direct advocacy included completing a ride along with a beat-cop and directly interacting with homeless and mentally ill populations.
1994 – Bunchie and Joe Tyler began producing cable access TV shows, “Erasing the Stigma.” Bunchie and Joe would later be fixtures in the NAMI and mental health community, maintaining a variety of leadership positions for the next ten years. Their television and online video show, “Erasing the Stigma” would include interviews with leaders in Nevada, including politicians and advocates.
2006 – Mark Burchell, a current NAMI Northern Nevada board member, volunteered within the support group network. Shortly after, he Mark was hired as a liaison for the Northern Nevada Mental Health Court.
2016 – Kelly Ranasinghe JD began his expansion of the Education Dinners, held on the last Thursday of most months at The Bridge Baptist Church in Reno. Kelly continued to create the NAMI Northern Nevada Facebook page and the NAMI Northern Nevada website, moving into social media outreach.
Today – President Gerald O’Brien, Vice President Mark Burchell, Secretary Donna Shibovich, Treasurer Joseph Allen, Member-at-Large Kelly Ranasinghe, Member-at-Large Marty Jensen and Member-at-Large James Allen serve in the NAMI Northern Nevada board of directors. NAMI Northern Nevada is the most active NAMI local affiliate in the state.
We give our special thanks to all of the unsung heroes of NAMI Northern Nevada for their time, talent and treasure, making a difference through large and small works of advocacy for people with mental illness.