A Lasting Legacy Through Dedication

After working as the executive director for NAMI Ventura County (part of the National Alliance on Mental Illness) for seven years, Ratan Bhavnani is retiring this summer.

’Helping families is the most critical component to NAMI Ventura County,’ Bhavnani said. ‘When they connect with us they realize that they are not alone and that there are resources out there, and that help is available. And that recovery is a reality.’ He started by being on the board of directors of NAMI Ventura County in 2005. In 2006, he was the board president.

‘Before getting onto the board of directors,’ Bhavnani said, ‘I took a 12-week Family to Family class in order to learn how to help my son. Through this class the focus is on a variety of topics: understanding people with mental illness; symptoms; treatments for illnesses; better communication skills and advocating for your family members.’ Joan Wiggins, one of the program coordinators for NAMI Ventura County, said Bhavnani ‘has been an incredible asset. His tireless advocacy efforts have made real and lasting changes for the people in Ventura County living with mental illness and their families.’ She said he actively worked to improve NAMI’s partnerships with groups in the community.

“Thanks to his efforts, NAMI has an excellent relationship with local government and with other community-based organizations,” Wiggins added. “Ratan is wise and funny, understanding and kind. Working with him has been a pleasure and a privilege.” According to Family to Family teacher Diane Bustillos, “Ratan has had a huge impact on Ventura County. His knowledge and expertise on mental health issues has helped many families, including my own, as well as the community at large. He is very well respected and admired for all he has done for NAMI Ventura County.”

Program coordinator Chris Novak described Bhavnani’s numerous accomplishments. “Ratan has worked tirelessly over the years by leading and expanding the NAMI Ventura County affiliate from offering four Family to Family sessions per year in English to 12 Family to Family classes per year in English and four classes in Spanish per year; a guest speaker series each month; various support groups; the NAMI Walk (an annual walk to raise funds in May); and an annual Christmas Party.” Other programs offered in 2015 include Friends in the Lobby; In Our Own Voice; Ending the Silence; Parents and Teachers as Allies; NAMI Connection Support Group; and a helpline, 805-500-6264.

“Without Ratan’s leadership and dedication, all of these programs would not have been possible,” Novak stressed. “I wish Ratan all the best in his new adventures and will miss his leadership and his unwavering commitment to NAMI Ventura County’s mission statement.” As NAMI Ventura County continues to grow, more members of the community may realize that their advocacy work toward helping those with mental illness is essential.

To volunteer or donate, or both, people may call 805-641-2426 or www.namiventura.org

Remember that we are all more similar than different.

Carol Leish, of Oxnard, is a writer and motivational speaker about disability awareness.

June 7, 2015   Ventura Star