Humble Beginnings: The History of NAMI Bucks County
What we know today as NAMI Bucks County, PA, began in 1983 as a small support group consisting of seven family members who met at the Bucks County Free Library in Langhorne. The group was advertised as “Families Unite for Mental Health” and continued to meet at the library for the better part of a year.
St. Mary Hospital (Now St. Mary Medical Center in Langhorne) kindly accommodated the growing support group where meetings would be held regularly for the next four years. During those four years, over 150 people attended with about 25 regular attendees. It was around this time that “Families Unite for Mental Health” became the first iteration of NAMI, known then as AMI: Alliance for the Mentally Ill of PA, an official organization. Meetings of AMI were announced in all local newspapers, and local hospitals recommended the group to those in need. As attendance continued to grow, the meetings were moved to Penndel Mental Health Center.
Members of AMI visited and inspected group homes, clinics and other facilities, discussed various problems with those in charge, and interviewed the individuals receiving services. Several of AMI PA’s earliest members were also members of the Bucks County Mental Health Utilization Projects, and worked independently and on committees that lectured for and advised local service providers.
In 1997, the legal name was changed to the acronym, NAMI, by a vote of the membership due to concerns that the name Alliance for the Mentally Ill did not use person-first language. In 2005, the meaning of NAMI was changed to National Alliance on Mental Illness, and the Bucks County affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness continues to carry out the original mission of building better lives for those affected by mental illness in our community.
What started as a small group of families gathered in library chairs in 1983 has blossomed into Bucks County’s leading voice on mental health. Today, we are an association of local individuals and families who work in the community to raise awareness and provide support and education that was not previously available to those in need.
NAMI’s motto is “You are not alone.” You are a part of the NAMI Bucks County family, and we thank you for your support. We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without you.