Dhanu Sannesy
Nominated by NAMI Orange County, NY
Member, NAMI Orange County, NY
Listen to Dhanu's Candidate Speech

Job Title or Position:

  • President, NAMI Orange County, NY

NAMI Leadership Experience:

  • NAMI Orange County, NY Board of Directors (President, 2016-present; Vice President, 2010-2015)
  • NAMI New York State Board of Directors (Second Vice President, 2 years)

Additional NAMI Involvement:

  • NAMI Basics, NAMI Family-To-Family, NAMI Peer-To-Peer, NAMI Provider Education, NAMI Family & Friends, NAMI Ending the Silence, NAMI In Our Own Voice, NAMI Connection Recovery Support Group, NAMI Family Support Group, NAMI Smarts for Advocacy, NAMI Advocacy, NAMI Speakers Bureau, NAMIWalks
  • I am involved IN MY LOCAL NAMI AFFILIATE in the following ways: member for over 30 years, program coordinator/facilitator/presenter/mentor/instructor of ten NAMI Signature Programs (2014-present), Helpline: Emails and Telephone Responder (2016-present), created and maintain affiliate website (2015-present), obtain guest speakers for Education meetings (2010-present).
  • I am/have been INVOLVED WITH NAMI-NYS in the following: Co-chair of Program, Reaffiliation, Membership Committees (2 years); Strategic Planning (2 years); NAMIWalks (2 years); member of Education Committee and Zero Suicide Committees (2016-present); NAMI-NYS Fashion Show model for 2022 fundraiser; annual NAMI-NYS Legislative Day (2010-present).

Other Board Service:

  • HONOR Homeless Shelter in Middletown, NY (2018-present)
  • ​Orange County Community Service Board (2017-present)
  • Goshen Chamber of Commerce (3 years)

Relationship to Mental Health:

  • Individual with first-person experience of mental health illness; Family member or direct/front-line support of someone with a mental health illness

Candidate Strengths Assessment

The candidate indicated they have experience in the following areas that will help NAMI achieve its mission and strategic goals:

  • Adult Education, Advocacy, Criminal Justice, Mental Health Service/Support, Philanthropy/Donor Cultivation

Estimated years of experience in the above areas:

  • Adult Education - 9 years
  • Advocacy - 28 years
  • Criminal Justice - 6 years
  • Mental Health Service/ Support - 28 years
  • Philanthropy/Donor Cultivation - 7 years

The candidate indicated they have connections and networks in the following areas:

  • Criminal Justice, Information Technology, Lobbying, Marketing/Public Relations, Military/Veterans, Philanthropy, Politics/Elected Officials, Real Estate, Social Media, Traditional Media

Additional information about the connections and networks:

  • CRIMINAL JUSTICE: My heart goes out for people who have ended up in jails & prisons due to their mental health symptoms. I get deeply involved with Jail diversion programs such as Stepping Up Initiative, Help Not Handcuffs, educating law enforcement officers. I am in good connection with CIT International & attend their annual conferences & have networked with some members CIT international including Retired Major Sam Cochran, founder of CIT. Very comfortable with INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY, regularly working on NAMI Orange website''. LOBBYING/POLITICS/ELECTED OFFICIALS, worked with legislators about some Bills, regarding need for mental health services; MARKETING/PUBLIC RELATIONS: making good connections with people & organizations is my biggest strength. Information technology is another of my strength. MILITARY/Veterans, I am connected with Vet 2 Vet program through Mental Health Association. REAL ESTATE, in good connection with real estate people; SOCIAL MEDIA/TRADITIONAL MEDIA, in good communication by promoting NAMI Orange events through Facebook, emails, website, newspaper & radio.

Candidate Leadership Style

The candidate indicated the following descriptors represent their leadership style:

  • Action-oriented, Decisive, Innovator, Linear Thinker, Outcome-oriented, Peacemaker, Risk Taker, Team Player

Candidate Narrative

The candidate indicated that she possesses these specific strengths and attributes that the NAMI Board has identified as high priority for the 2023-2024 Board: 

  • Diversity of age, race, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation, language, experience, and national geography
  • Knowledge of the philanthropic community and track record with donor cultivation
  • Criminal Justice

DIVERSITY: As I was growing up in India, mental illness was not acknowledged. I have first-hand experience with stigma & discrimination including cultural biases when I first settled in this country. Also, when my loved one was first diagnosed with mental illness. I have witnessed people from different cultural backgrounds including LGBTQ population, people with language barriers, not willing to get help due to discrimination & disparity in mental health system. It became important to me to bring awareness towards cultural competency and educate everyone to eliminate the stigma & discrimination associated with mental health conditions so that people will seek help. DONOR: Over the years I have learned how to apply for and successfully obtain grants and donations for our local affiliate through businesses, organizations, county government & community foundations. I have established good connections with donors. CRIMINAL JUSTICE: A police interaction & false arrest traumatized my family's lives to an extreme extent. Since then, I have become more passionate about criminal justice reforms, jail diversion programs - especially when it comes to people with disabilities. I often share my lived experience with the local police academy and I am connected with CIT International where I have good contacts with some of the board of directors and also retired Major Sam Cochran, who is the founder of CIT. Using my own personal experiences and my achievements over the years, I am very confident that I could contribute to the NAMI Board in many ways. 

I personally have helped advance the NAMI mission in my community by expanding NAMI programs and increasing support/education for families and peers through NAMI Signature Programs including increasing the frequency of support groups for both families and peers from once a month to weekly; I provided presentations such as NAMI Family & Friends, NAMI Ending the Silence to school districts and have spread the word about NAMI’s missions/programs by speaking to many agencies-medical colleges, local colleges, rotary clubs, police academy and hospitals (local and forensic psychiatric center); and have done public outreach events, radio spots, lobbying, and using social media (Zoom education meetings, email/phone Helpline, adding resources to our website and Facebook. 

I work well in coordination with other leaders to accomplish goals as evidenced by participants giving positive feedback, testimonials and evaluations about the delivery of NAMI Signature programs including NAMI presentations which are co-taught by myself and another leader. I was humbled to receive the 2022 Muriel Shephard Partners With Families Award from the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services (NYAPRS) Board of Directors "in heartfelt recognition of your outstanding and inspirational leadership on behalf of people with mental health and trauma-related challenges in New York State”.

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