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  • Emily Lavin

Resident takes a lead role in supporting those with mental health issues


Tiburon resident Debra Belaga, seen here with her dog, Whiskey, has served on the board of the Marin chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, for about seven years. In that time, she’s helped the organization expand its programs and its reach. (Elliot Karlan photo / For The Ark)

After Debra Belaga retired in 2011 from her 35-year career as a lawyer, she knew she wanted to fill her time with community service.


A few years later, the Tiburon resident was exploring opportunities when she came across the Marin chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, and was immediately interested.


“I was attracted to NAMI because one of the many things NAMI does is try to eliminate the stigma of mental illness,” says Belaga, 68, adding that her training as a lawyer made her a natural fit for the organization’s advocacy work.


She started volunteering with the nonprofit’s advocacy committee in 2014 and then joined the organization’s board of directors, where for the past seven years she’s played a significant role in helping the organization expand its programs and cement its place as a leading voice on mental health in the county.


“It’s been a challenge, but a positive challenge, because the results have been so encouraging,” Belaga says.


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