A local woman is working to start a Lee County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and looking for anyone with interest to get involved.

Micki Smith moved to Sanford from Washington state recently and noticed no such local chapter of the nationwide organization which provides advocacy, education, support and more to individuals and families affected by mental illness.

“In 2014 I took a class in Washington because my child was experiencing significant issues, and they encouraged me to become trained” to offer NAMI services, Smith said. “I became one of two state trainers in Washington, and I’ve taken a class called provider education training, which is to help medical people with frontline diagnosis issues, and helping people that come into hospitals find resources for mental health support.”

Smith said that because no current NAMI chapter exists in Lee County, she contacted Wake County’s chapter for help getting off the ground. To begin, Lee will fall under Wake County’s chapter. But the hope is that one day soon, a Lee County NAMI organization will be able to stand on its own.

“It takes quite a bit to get a local chapter started because you need two teachers and facilitators for every offering,” she said. “So Wake County is going to be doing this with us, and it’ll be a co-Wake/Lee thing to get it established down here. I think Sanford definitely has sufficient population and need for it.”

Smith said she hopes to offer basics like classes for parents or caregivers of people up to 22 years old with mental illness issues. She also hopes to start a family support group with no age restrictions for situations like a spouse or child of a parent with mental illness issues.

“NAMI Basics,” a free, six-course virtual class, will be available beginning in January for anyone interested. Interested parties should pre-register at www.nami-wake.org/nami-basics.

“I’ve met people here locally that have kids or grandkids that are pretty extensively involved with mental health issues,” Smith said. “And this is a safe place to be able to talk about that kind of thing. People don’t judge you, and that was the thing I most benefited from. These people are normal, they love their kids, and they still have these problems.”