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NAMI Westside Los Angeles Announces $1.2 Million Gift for Mental Health Education, Support and Advocacy Efforts

Lowell Milken Family Foundation gift is the largest in the nonprofit's history. Funds will expand access to mental health classes and support services for families and students across 12 greater Westside communities.


August 18, 2021

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SANTA MONICA, Calif., — After a year that brought mental health issues to the fore, the Lowell Milken Family Foundation (LMFF) has made a gift of $1.2 million to provide programmatic and operational support to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Westside Los Angeles (NAMI Westside LA), furthering its work to provide support, guidance and hope for the growing number of Angelenos affected by mental health conditions. The three-year commitment ensures that NAMI Westside LA—whose programs reach thousands of families, individuals and educators each year—will expand their ability to offer FREE in-person and virtual programming in both English and Spanish, as well as operational funds to continue to attract, retain and support its leaders. 

Communities directly impacted by NAMI Westside LA include Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Culver City, Hollywood, Malibu, Marina del Rey, Pacific Palisades, Playa del Rey, Santa Monica, Topanga, Venice, Westwood and West Hollywood. 

Due to its rapid response to the mental health crisis brought on by the pandemic, NAMI Westside LA has been recognized as a leader in the greater Los Angeles community and beyond. "Our organization has distinguished itself, both within California and on a national level, by our ability to pivot all our programs onto a virtual platform in 2020," said NAMI WLA Executive Director Erin Raftery Ryan. "Throughout the pandemic, we expanded our programs, conducted additional facilitator trainings, and provided mentorship along the way to other NAMI CA affiliates. NAMI National even arranged for us to lead a workshop for NAMI affiliates across the country on how to deliver virtual services more effectively. This generous gift from the Lowell Milken Family Foundation reaffirms the value of this work and challenges us to reach even greater heights at a time when our programs and services are needed by so many." 

The new gift builds upon LMFF's support for NAMI Westside LA that began with the Lanetta Wahlgren Fund, which has supported the operational and programmatic needs of NAMI Westside LA since 2019 and made possible the expansion and enhancement of its signature programs. 

Philanthropist and education reform leader Lowell Milken views the enhancement and expansion of mental health educational classes and resources as critical to the wellbeing of students, families and the community at large. "This gift furthers our foundation's mission over more than three decades to equip people to pursue and attain lives that have value to themselves as well as to others," he said. "Our new commitment will enable NAMI Westside LA to deepen the effectiveness of its programs and services; maintain, enrich and grow its strong leadership and staff; and continue to provide classes and community programs to families across Westside Los Angeles." 

As an affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness—long considered the largest and most widely recognized mental health non-profit in the nation—NAMI Westside LA offers free education programs in both English and Spanish, including: 

·  Family to Family Class: an 8-week graduate-level educational course for family members and those caring for loved ones with a mental health condition;

·  Peer to Peer Class: An 8-week educational course for persons living with mental health conditions;

·  Family and peer support groups facilitated by trained leaders with lived experience;

·  Ending the Silence: a school program designed to give middle and high-school students, teachers, and parents an opportunity to learn about mental health, including information about warning signs, facts, statistics, and how to seek help for themselves or a friend. 

"Our partnership with the Lowell Milken Family Foundation allowed us to expand all our programs during the pandemic to meet the increased needs of our community," said Tim Davis, NAMI Westside LA's Program Director. "Since March of 2020, we have conducted over 175 Ending the Silence virtual presentations, reaching over 2,500 students, educators and parents. Over that same period of time, NAMI Westside LA has also expanded the classes and support groups we offer, while creating new ways for our members to build community and find hope through several innovative awareness-raising, stigma-busting events." 

"By investing in the human capital of NAMI Westside Los Angeles, Lowell Milken has given our affiliate the gift of long-term sustainability and allowed us to flourish in ways that were never before possible," said President and NAMI Westside LA Co-Founder Sharon Dunas. "Over the past two years, and during one of the most challenging mental and medical health crises of our time, the LMFF gift has enabled us to further our standing as a pillar across the many diverse communities of Los Angeles County." 

About NAMI Westside Los Angeles (NAMI WLA)
As an independent 501c3 charity, NAMI Westside LA offers entirely free programming, including educational classes, support groups, lectures, warm-line phone support, and a host of community services to provide knowledge, guidance, and hope for the growing number of Angelenos affected by mental health conditions. For more information about NAMI Westside LA resources and giving opportunities, please visit, www.NAMILA.org

For information or an interview, please contact Gigi de Pourtales at: press@namila.org 

About the Lowell Milken Family Foundation (LMFF)
Founded in 1986, the Santa Monica-based Lowell Milken Family Foundation (LMFF) creates and supports initiatives that cultivate human capital—that is, the knowledge, skills and experience essential to lead productive and satisfying lives. LMFF pursues this mission through education programs that are both groundbreaking and comprehensive. By fostering and inspiring excellence, creativity and responsibility within the formal education environment and beyond, LMFF seeks to equip people to pursue and attain lives that have value to themselves as well as to others. Among LMFF's initiatives are the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, the Lowell Milken Institute for Business Law and Policy at the UCLA School of Law, the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes, and the Hoffmitz Milken Center for Typography at ArtCenter College of Design. For more information visit www.LowellMilken.org.