Rhode Island behavioral health centers receive $8 million grant

By Eileen Weber
August 19th, 2020
Newport Mental Health
Image courtesy of https://www.newportmentalhealth.org/

Funds help create community connections, add services

Newport Mental Health and Thrive Behavioral Health, Inc. in Warwick were awarded an $8 million federal grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Center for Mental Health Services this past spring.

The two organizations will receive $4 million each to enhance programs over the course of two years. The grant is meant to introduce both new services and bolster existing services, much of which involves enhancing the staff.

At 24 percent, Rhode Island has one of the highest levels of adult mental illness in the country. In addition, 34 percent of children who needed mental health counseling within the past year didn’t receive it. So there’s been a big push to expand the programs that will allow the facilities to reach more than 10,000 Rhode Island residents who may not currently have access to mental health treatments.

As Newport’s Director David Boscia, LICSW, said, the grant gave the organization the available funds to expand services in a way they haven’t been able to before. They now have a mobile clinic available 24/7. They’ve increased their workforce by adding 30 full-time employees. And, they’ve broadened their community outreach and education on mental illness and substance abuse.

Within the next few months, they also plan to roll out a shared electronic documentation system with healthcare partners allowing them to streamline information, schedule appointments, and ensure that client interaction isn’t duplicated.

Boscia was particularly excited about a new position called a “navigator,” who acts as a point of contact. The navigator helps patients not only get an appointment but follow up to see if they got there. The individual also follows up a few weeks later to make sure the patient is doing well or if he or she needs further assistance.

He said Newport realized its shortcomings and this position was a necessary addition.

“Anyone who walks in gets a full assessment and may be referred to other partners,” he said. “[But] we noticed there was a gap in our services; patients would get the appointment and then not go. The navigator prevents that.”

Newport Mental Health and Thrive, the lead agencies for the grant, partner with other organizations like Community Care Alliance in Woonsocket and CODAC Behavioral Healthcare in Cranston.

Newport, Thrive, and Community Care Alliance are all Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics, or CCBHCs. Along with CODAC, they fall under the umbrella of Horizon Healthcare Partners.

With this connection between organizations, they can cover the entire state with behavioral health care. According to the National Council for Behavioral Health, CCBHCs are designed to provide a range of mental health and substance abuse services. They are directly responsible for providing—or contracting with partner organizations—services with an emphasis on 24-hour crisis care, evidence-based practices, care coordination and integration with physical health care.

For example, when Newport has a patient with an opioid addiction, they can immediately refer them to CODAC, a subcontracted facility that focuses solely on substance abuse in adults and youth.

Community Care Alliance, on the other hand, zeroes in on economic insecurity and housing issues for people with mental illness or addiction. Boscia credited Jamie Lehane, president and CEO of Newport, with making those partner connections.

“It means we can contract with other organizations that can do what we can’t,” said Lehane. “We’re still accountable for what happens with that subcontractor. But we work in a collaborative way to provide the best systems of care.”

Lehane is passionate about a new program Newport is developing. It’s called Healthy Transitions and focuses on adolescents and young adults aged 16 to 25 years old. He discussed how people in this age range typically have their first psychotic break. But when that happens, seeking care doesn’t take place until somewhere between eight and 10 years later. With early intervention, a lifetime of medications, clinics, and even jail time can be avoided.

“The level of life disruption is significant in this early phase,” he said. “When treated early, we get them on a low-dose anti-psychotic drug. But it’s not all about the drugs. We work with them on shared decision-making; they own their illness. We work with the family. This keeps them in school and in jobs.”

Lehane also talked about an initiative with the mobile units. The units work closely with the police. He said around 30 to 40 percent of 911 calls have a behavioral health component to them. The mobile units meet the police at the scene to provide intervention.

“This is about moving health care out of the clinic and into the community. We may not be everything to everybody, but we’ll get you the help you need,” he said. “I’m really passionate about the work we do. We’re going to help a lot of people.”

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