NAMI Huntington is the successor to AMI Huntington-Oyster Bay which was founded in 1989. Oyster Bay was the home town of the then Senate Majority Leader (we are sensitive to politics). AMI stood for “Alliance for the Mentally Ill.” The letters NAMI were reserved for the national organization. Since there was confusion about NAMI vs. AMI, several years ago all AMI names were converted to NAMI with a suffix like the name of the town where the organization was based.
The founders of our (now) NAMI Huntington were leaders in advocacy for mentally ill people. Davis Pollack was one of the original founders. He later founded the Clubhouse of Suffolk and the housing agency Concern, both of which are flourishing.
Ken Goldstein, the husband of Dorothy Goldstein who was the first President of our organization, served a year as President of NAMI New York State. He was a persistent advocate for a 54 bed facility on the grounds of Pilgrim State Hospital. The facility provides transitional housing (up to two years) for persons discharged from State Hospitals. The facility is now administered by the Federation of Organiztions.
Peggy Deutch was another early member of this group. She was a tireless organizer of events that furthered NAMI causes. One such cause was the passage of the Community Reinvestment Bill which took monies saved from the closing of State hospitals and re-invested them in services (housing, clubhouses, etc.) for people with mental illnesses. She also organized and ran a Long Island Coalition of NAMI groups. On a bi-monthly basis, the Coalition had a series of speakers and round table discussions on issues important to NAMI people.
The second President of our organization is Joseph Cantwell. He is a member of the Mental Health Subcommittee which advises the County Executive on matters related to the care of people with mental illnesses. He also was Chair of the Family Advisory Board of Pilgrim State Hospital. The Board presented family concerns and issues to the Director of the Hospital. Until a recent illness, Cantwell had been a constant presence at mental illness events and functions.
Since 2004, Jayette Lansbury has been Co-president of our organization. She continues our tradition of vigorous advocacy for people with mental illness. Her special interest is in forensics and the Criminal Code as it affects people with mental illnesses. She was recently honored and received a plaque for her work at Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Hospital.
Over the years NAMI Huntington has been blessed with a series of trained, dedicated, and very able social workers who led our support group meetings. The first was Sue Benjamin who was with us from the beginning. She led the meeting for ten years. After a short hiatus when we struggled on our own, Lois Logan took over. She was with us for three years. Also for three years we had Julie Beatrice, a professional psychotherapist, leading our support group meeting. Our Co-President, Jayette Lansbury, took NAMI training to learn how to facilitate the support group session of our monthly meetings. She has been leading that part of our meeting for several years.