We had the good fortune of connecting with Linda Stalters and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Linda, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I had a solo psychotherapy practice in the Washington, DC area before I moved to Houston, TX. I decided against starting another practice because I didn’t know how long I would be in Houston and transitioning patients with serious neuro-psychiatric brain illnesses to a new therapist is difficult for the patient. It was important to start an organization that focused on helping people who live with the most challenging, most misunderstood, most untreated illnesses such as schizophrenia, schizo-affective and bipolar brain illnesses. Since there wasn’t such an organization, I started the process and gathered a steering committee comprised of diagnosed individuals, caregivers, professionals, an attorney and lay people to determine the composition of the organization.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am one of the fortunate ones who knew from early childhood that I was going to be a nurse. Many challenges lay before me including chronic pain, children, divorce, relocations and very long days of double shifts and night shifts. But I loved helping people in need. During my last year of high school I had only one class to complete, so I attended night school to complete my high school degree while attending Practical Nursing school during the day. I worked on ICU, CCU, Med-Surg, OB/GYN, University In-Patient and Psychiatric units. While attending a Bacalaureate Nursing Program at Brigham Young University, I met and married and then had three wonderful children within three and half years while working and attending class. Nursing programs do not allow for flexibility for selecting timing for classes and clinicals, thus, I put my education on hold to support my husband through his education and standing up his practice working as his office nurse, manager and accountant. Following my divorce, I returned to complete my BSN at what is now Washington Adventist University while working full-time at a long-term psychiatric hospital. Upon my graduation I continued to achieve my MSN at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC while “repaying” my VA Scholarship by working at the VAMC-DC on the psychiatry unit and working on developing the schizophrenia unit. Due to an injury complicated by chronic spondyloarthritis/degenerative joints, I completed my Certification as an Advanced Psychiatric Registered Nurse Psychotherapist and hung my “shingle” as a sole practitioner serving very special individuals living with predominately schizophrenia spectrum, bipolar brain illnesses and borderline personality disorder. Volunteering with the American Red Cross beginning September 11, 2001 was a great opportunity filled with amazing people and very challenging situations. It was a sincere honor and pleasure utilizing my nursing and psychiatry skills in multiple tragic situations. In 2008, my husband’s career took him to Houston, TX. After transitioning my patient’s to other clinicians and moving the Houston, not knowing if we would need to relocate again, I determined I didn’t want to cause patients to go through the difficulties incurred during the transition to other clinicians. So, I called Joanne Verbanic and told her I thought it was time to start an organization precisely for the most misunderstood, most untreated, mistreated and marginalized people who live with a brain illness that includes psychosis. Starting a national non-profit organization is extremely challenging. I worked pro-bono from 2008 until the Board of Directors insisted I receive a salary about ten years later. I laugh with people, that I no longer work for monetary pay, I pay to work. The payment comes for the people we serve when they express their gratitude for our services. I’ve learned that even when our mission fits the values and goals of local companies and the organization’s headquarters is in the area, if the organization is not incorporated in that area, they often will not provide funding. There are many restrictions and deadlines on company giving. It’s challenging to find good Fund Developers who will stick with the challenges of the organization. Surprisingly there is a great deal of “competition” among the non-profit organizations – it’s a tough world out there. It’s important to determine how each organization can align and work together to reach collaborative goals. Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America (SARDAA) is the organization that is uniquely focused only on people affected by neuropsychiatric psychosis. SARDAA initiated the movement to reclassify schizophrenia spectrum as a neurological brain illness so that people will receive the same respect and appropriate treatment as other people with brain illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and other illnesses. When clinicians, the criminal justice, researchers, medication development and the general public understand that people have a brain illness we expect a paradigm change so that people with these brain diseases are not criminalized, left homeless or worse and will receive dignity, appropriate comprehensive continuum of lifelong care and treatment both medically and socially. We work to instate a compassionate communication clause in HIPAA so that caregivers can communicate important information so people will receive treatment before tragedies can occur. We support the elimination of the IMD Exclusion to open up more hospital beds for people living with neuropsychiatric illnesses and Assisted Outpatient Treatment so that people can receive ongoing support to be involved in their recovery.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
This is difficult given the challenging times of distancing and partial or total closures. Some of our favorite spots are the Houston Club 50th floor with friends; happy hours with live smooth jazz; Phil and Derek’s for great food, music and friends; the Original Lupe Tortilla near Hwy 6; Amazing Indian food at Veranda; Alley Theater; Got to do the Rodeo; crawfish boils; shopping at Ranch 99 market.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Joanne Verbanic, the founder of Schizophrenics Anonymous (now Schizophrenia Alliance: Psychosis Support and Acceptance) (SA) inspired me to start SARDAA and to adopt SA as a core program. SA is a self-help and peer support program for people who live with psychosis. SA is run by and for people who live with psychosis. Joanne was diagnosed with schizophrenia and valiantly wanted to help others living with this severe brain illness and worked hard with tireless compassion to do just that. Joanne died in 2015 and worked until she could work no longer for her peers as she inspired thousands. SARDAA would not exist without the support, expertise, sacrifice of time and treasure of my amazing husband, Russ Stalters.