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Debbie L. Proulx was appointed as the first executive director for NAMI Pasco.

NEW PORT RICHEY —One in four adults go through mental illness in a given year, as well as twenty percent of teenagers, ages 13 to 18, the National Alliance on Mental health said in 2013. For the first time in its history, a local NAMI chapter has named an executive director in order to continue to help those affected by mental illness.

On Aug. 15, Debbie L. Proulx began working as the first executive director for NAMI Pasco County FL.

NAMI Pasco is a chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. This is a nonprofit organization that aims to promote recovery for people of all ages that deal with mental illness and erase the stigma surrounding the topic.

NAMI Pasco provides support groups, educational classes, workshops and more.

Proulx has worked as “everything from typist to executive director” and brings 20 years of experience with nonprofit organizations, as both a volunteer and employee. She believes that her new job will give her the opportunity to touch the lives of people and be a positive influence on those around her.

“My main goal in life is to be a role model to my children and the many others who have lived in my home over the years and being an executive director at NAMI Pasco aligns perfectly with that goal. This position will allow me to be a part of something much bigger than me, something that can have a profound impact for the better on people’s lives,” she said. “I like that NAMI truly cares. They put people first and business second.”

She wants to expand the NAMI Pasco foundation, not tear it down and start over.

“NAMI Pasco has an amazing board. They have more heart and dedication than I have ever seen on a board, however they lacked direction. With an executive director, they will become more organized and goal oriented. They will also be able to expand funding and, therefore, services to the community,” Proulx said. “I’m not here to make too many changes. I’m here to expand on the wonderful work that NAMI Pasco has already started. We want to become the first thing that people in Pasco County think of when they hear “mental health.”’

She hopes to alleviate the struggle that she often hears from other people dealing with mental health issues.

“The one thing that seems to be the most common is the complaint of lack of access to timely care,” she said.

Proulx was diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, so she knows how to personally connect with the people that seek help from NAMI. Her advice is to speak out and find out what suits the individual.

“Personally, I would tell them not to hide it. It’s just another part of who they are, and they should not be ashamed of it. They should actively work to get into recovery and know that there is hope,” Proulx said. “There are about as many ways to deal with mental health issues as there are people. They might have to try many things to find out what works for them, but they will eventually find it. Above all they are not alone. If they are ever needing to talk, they should reach out to someone.”

For more information about the services and programs that NAMI Pasco provides, visit namipasco.org. The hotline is 800-273-8255.