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Hays plays host to NAMI annual meeting





Mental health advocates will gather in Hays this weekend for the NAMI Kansas annual conference.

The three-day program begins Friday afternoon at Fort Hays State University's Memorial Union. The National Alliance on Mental Illness last hosted its annual meeting in Hays in 2005.

"It's important to us to have contact with people in all areas of the state, and not just in larger population centers," said Rick Cagan, executive director of NAMI Kansas. "Mental illness doesn't know any boundaries in terms of geography. ... I think it's important for us to have contact with folks in western Kansas whose families are affected by mental illness."

General sessions will address topics such as mental health services for rural areas and advocating for culturally responsive mental health services.

A third session will be a public forum called "The Complex Causes of Mass Shootings: Moving Beyond Stigmatization." This presentation will be from Carol Patrick, a professor of psychology at FHSU.

FHSU students are invited to attend the presentation at no cost. The conference is sponsored by the departments of social work and psychology at FHSU, and the on-campus Kelly Center.

Attendees also will have several workshops to choose from, including topics such as an evaluation of the state's new KanCare program, inpatient treatment at Larned State Hospital, running effective support groups and peer support.

Certificates of attendance will be provided for professionals seeking continuing education credits.

The registration fee is $75.

Approximately 150 people usually attend the annual meeting, Cagan said, noting many from eastern Kansas also will travel to Hays for the event.

NAMI Kansas has many affiliated groups through the state, including an active group in Hays. Local advocates are thankful for the opportunity to raise awareness of mental health issues close to home, said Gina Anderson, president of the local affiliate.

"Because it's here, we don't have the expenses that a lot of times we have to pay," she said.

Local advocates will provide transportation between the Days Inn hotel and university campus for out-of-town visitors.