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New York, April 3, 2023–NAMI-NYC volunteer and participant Kerensa Ward has been named to New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s (DOHMH) Bureau of Mental Health Consumer Advisory Board (CAB).
“I’m incredibly excited to make a difference on the Consumer Advisory Board. I want to create change in my community and on a legislative level,” shared Kerensa Ward. Kerensa is a NAMI-NYC Advocacy Ambassador and graduate of our Peer-to-Peer class. She resides in Queens, NY.
The mission of the CAB is to review and make recommendations for existing and future DOHMH policies, programs, services and issues that impact individuals with mental health needs. CAB meets monthly and requires a three-year commitment. Appointment to CAB requires a rigorous application process. Three members of our community, Tanisha Malcom, Maria Langan, and Felix Guzman, currently sit on the CAB.
Kerensa has always cared about mental health access and advocacy. As a social worker and discharge planner at a local Brooklyn hospital, she saw firsthand how the healthcare system often failed those with serious mental illness and disabilities. After a car accident, Kerensa began to struggle with PTSD and panic attacks. Unable to work, she had a gap in insurance and couldn’t access the care she needed.
Kerensa became an advocate within her community, leading mental health and advocacy workshops at local churches and community centers throughout the five boroughs. At NAMI-NYC, she took our Peer-to-Peer class, helping people living with mental health challenges with their recovery. Kerensa also joined NAMI-NYC’s Advocacy Ambassadors program. During the pandemic, Kerensa knew exactly what she needed to do, contacting her local Council Member to advocate for people living with mental illness.
“If it weren’t for NAMI-NYC, I don’t what I would have done. At NAMI-NYC, a light switch flipped for me. This community became both a motivational outlet and my support system. I may suffer from PTSD, but it doesn’t limit where I can go on this journey. I’m at the peak of my career,” Kerensa shared.
Kerensa continued her journey of healing and self-care in her professional life. She became a mental health navigator with a major insurance company to ensure that New Yorkers understand and know the benefits available to them. Kerensa also became a life coach and launched an essential oil brand, K’Essential Blends. Additionally, she partners with NYC public schools, teaching social emotional learning to students. Kerensa hopes to motivate others with her story. “It’s not what you endure, but how you choose to navigate it,” Kerensa said.
To learn more about how to get involved with NAMI-NYC, visit http://www.naminyc.org/advocacy. To find a free mental health program that’s right for you, visit www.naminyc.org/find-support.