In fall 2020, NAMI BI sent the letter below to an address list of Block Island people, both year round and those who are also resident elsewhere.
NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for millions of Americans affected by mental illness. As part of an alliance of over 600 state and local affiliates, NAMI-Block Island, works to ensure that every person on Block Island has access to the services they need and is surrounded by a community that cares.
This past year has been very challenging for our organization as the COVID-19 pandemic has caused us, like many non-profits, to cancel all of our in person programs- monthly family support groups, the summer programs at the library, the May mental health conference, and the August Fun Run event with the Medical Center. However, we are regularly providing information via the Block Island Bulletin Board on mental health resources available locally, state-wide, and nationally. We have also distributed a informational post card which was sent to all Block Island Post Office box holders and given to the police department for appropriate use. Online education programs from NAMI are abundant and we have encouraged our citizens to access these programs.
Tragically, our community suffered another suicide a few months ago. We wish that mental illness and distress did not exist among us but that is not our reality. The fear of illness and economic stress cause individuals and the community to suffer. NAMI-BI continues to explore creative ways we can bring information and resources to our island and enable others to bring or find help when it is needed.
We will continue to foster our belief that the community at large, and more specifically, each of its citizens, has a critical role to play in addressing mental and behavioral health issues we all face. That principal guides our activities.
Your contributions make our work possible and we are always grateful for your donations. NAMI-Block Island is a tax exempt non-profit organization and you can make a contribution online at our website, blockislandmentalhealth.org, or simply send a check to NAMI Block Island Inc., PO Box 1719, Block Island, RI 02807.
The NAMI Board,
President: Jim Hinthorn
Vice-President: Kristin Baumann
Treasurer: Pat Tengwall
Secretary: Elspeth Crawford
Directors: Beth Gaffett Tengwall, Gloria Redlich, Socha Cohen, Jill Seppa, Alison Warfel, Will Young, Tracy Fredericks (Medical Center Case manager, 207-229-6349.)
[Donations to NAMI Block Island, PO Box 1719, Employer ID Number B3-2915592]
However, many other kinds of help can be given, besides monetary contribution. More detail of our activities is available here, and if you are interested in what we do, please inquire from any Board Member, or come to a meeting, and offer your skills to the Board.
This page was first written in 2015, and although there has been progress, our ongoing needs remain much the same. The only regular psychiatric mental health service available on Block Island is that offered by telemedicine from Butler Hospital for adults, and the service for adolescents, children and families from Bradley Hospital. Emergency or more sporadic need to individuals who have not previously sought regular appointments are possible, depending on the point of access. This can come through the Block Island Medical Center (BIHS) or the Police Department as well as through the Case manager, Tracy Fredericks, and can involve anything from advice or support to necessary escort off the island. Visiting counselors can be available by negotiation – see services.
The island context also means there is variation in need depending on the time of year. The winter population of permanent residents is less than 1000 people. During the summer season, May – October, the need for services applies to island seasonal workers, as well as summer residents who return regularly each year. There are also visitors/tourists who might need a more temporary engagement with the program. Summer population estimate is about 10,000 people.
Mental illness suffers so much from silence and stigma, that many people do not realize how many individuals suffer and their families and friends absorb consequences. They keep quiet. Given Rhode Island statistics* and the number of people in the local population, as the services become better known, it would seem that the number of individuals using the service will continue to increase as they have done each year they have been offered. At one time in 2014, there was a waiting time of four weeks for a client needing a first appointment. Now, in 2016, the current operating process for all activities is only funded for the limited number of hours used by the Case Manager in organizing the once weekly telemedicine appointments. The hours for which the manager, Tracy Fredericks, is employed are being used to the maximum, and indeed beyond as she responds willingly to emergency, to enabling the finding of counseling help, and other issues that take more of her time. Extra time is not funded.
Educational meetings mostly take place during the summer season when it is hoped that a wider audience can be reached. The summer programs presented have been made possible by the generosity of the speakers who have given their time freely, and by the venue (Island Free Library) also free. Members of the NAMI BI Board give their time to organize the presentations. In the past, some possible speakers have had to refuse as travel and residence costs on the island could not be borne by either speaker or NAMI BI.
NAMI BI needs are threefold:
First the obvious one for any non-profit, we need donations in order to keep going. As described in more detail below, we want to offer more services and expand programs, both of which are indeed required. Any gift you make helps us continue to provide psychiatric services and support on Block Island. Donate to NAMI Block Island, PO Box 1719, BI RI 02807. All gifts are fully tax deductible.
Second, We work with volunteered time and effort. We deeply appreciate the partnerships of Butler Hospital, Bradley Hospital, and South Shore Center, the liaison with Block Island Health Services, the free venue for programs offered by the Island Free Library and the publicity from Block Island Times. Expenses are minimal. NAMI BI also aims to offer some events each year during May, which is Mental Health Month. These involve our time, and organization skills, and volunteers, of all kinds, for example offering child care so that parents can attend events. For as long as is necessary by COVID -19 restrictions, we, like many others, are working virtually through Zoom.
For anyone wants to become involved and offer their time, as and when they can do so, there is no requirement for professional knowledge or past experience, just willingness. Please ask a Board Member and come along to a meeting.
Third, we create community conversations on mental health, to offer these and to offer support groups for families. We work as closely as possible with many other groups on the island. There may be a need to undertake training, or, to bring facilitators to the island. We look forward to interest and collaboration in the two-way discussions that help all of us with these initiatives. We were part of the Care coalition that enabled the appointment of a part-time Case-worker, a coordinator of human services, to help those who need services of all kinds make contact with providers on the mainland.
Community opinion is valuable and experiences can be shared.
NB Rhode Island reduced its spending on Mental Health in past years, not because of less need. We need political influence too. A side benefit of COVID-19 is that attention to Mental Health matters has become more visible and more important. However, that simply reflects that there is more need.
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