Mental health service expands in Catonsville

Peer-to-Peer mentors Debbie Meyer, left, of Columbia, and Deborah Handy, right, of East Baltimore, prepare for the group class at the new National Alliance on Mental Illnesses hub at Christian Temple in Catonsville.

As the National Alliance on Mental Illness Metropolitan Baltimore expands in the area, it has opened a hub at Christian Temple in Catonsville to provide improved access to its services for southwest Baltimore County residents.

Catonsville was chosen due to its proximity to Arbutus, Woodlawn and other nearby communities, according to its executive director, Sherry Welch.


Christian Temple, on Edmondson Avenue, was selected because it would be a convenient, safe and easily accessible spot for families, she said. It will host education and support programs the nonprofit offers.

This includes NAMI Peer-to-Peer, a free peer-led education program for those with mental health conditions, which started Dec. 1. It runs weekly on Thursdays from 6 to 8 p.m. through Feb. 2.


In January, Christian Temple will host a NAMI Basics, a free program for parents and caregivers of children under the age of 16 who have mental illnesses who want information or support. To join, call 410-435-2600.

In the spring, NAMI hopes to offer family education and support groups, as well as its In Our Own Voice series, which feature presentations from those with mental illnesses for people looking for a sense of hope or direction, Welch said.

In 2014, an estimated 43.6 million adults in the country — or nearly one in five — had a mental illness in the past year, and about one in five youths ages 13 to 18 experience a severe mental disorder at some point during their life, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

While NAMI Metro Baltimore was founded in 1983, expanding its presence has been a priority for the nonprofit's board for about two-and-a-half years, she said. It had hosted classes and groups at its offices near Towson.

In the last two years, NAMI has increased the number of people its provided its services to from 4,000 to more than 5,000, while the number of volunteers has increased from 60 to more than 220, Welch said.

The Catonsville hub is the first of three hubs NAMI hopes to open in the next year. The other two are in the southwestern and eastern parts of Baltimore City. The nonprofit is also in discussions with the YMCA of Central Maryland to work on potential collaborations at its centers.

"What we know about service and people who need support is it's much easier for them if you can bring it to them, to find a place in their own community where it's safe and convenient," she said. "We determined we would circle the Beltway with our programming."

Rick Powell, the pastor at Christian Temple for 21 years, said NAMI was a good fit for the church. Several of the 200 members of the church either struggle with mental illnesses or have a loved one who does, he said.


Powell said he believes some are reluctant to seek support because of stigmas associated with mental illnesses.

"If the church was public about this partnership and let people know it's available, it might encourage people to seek treatment when they would otherwise kind of suffer through without benefit of medication or things that could really help," he said. "That was a need that we could fill."