Mental Health, Mental Illness, on Block Island

bringing services and support for those who are ill and education for mental health to all on Block Island

Current Need on Block Island

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September 2015: Following from Community Conversations, and talks [e.g. Reed Cosper emphasized how Rhode Island has reduced spending on Mental Health] NAMI BI will prepare an Assessment of Needs. In the meantime – this is what we already know.

The only regular mental health service available on Block Island is that offered by NAMI BI. Emergency or more sporadic need to individuals who have not previously sought regular appointment is given as well as can be managed, depending on the point of access. This can come through the Block Island Medical Center (BIHS) or the Police Department as well as through NAMI BI Case manager, and can involve anything from advice or support to necessary escort off the island.

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 stigma, that many people do not realize how many individuals suffer and their families and friends absorb consequences and also 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 2015, 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 once every two weeks counselor visits are no longer available due to the retirement of the counselor and a replacement has not been found. 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 referrals since the counselor retirement, 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. A generous donor will match any gift you make so that we can continue to provide psychiatric services and support on Block Island. Donate to NAMI Block Island, PO Box D2, BI RI 02807. All gifts are fully tax deductible.

Second, apart from the case manager, we work with volunteered time and effort. We deeply appreciate the partnerships of Butler 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.

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.

Third, as we begin to work out what is meant by creating community conversations on mental health, to offer these and to offer support groups for families, we will be making contact 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.

Community opinion is valuable and experiences can be shared. 

More detail: In 2014 about $12,000 ensured the provision of help to residents. If the hours expand as we would like, we will need about $16,000 in 2015. Of course what would be wonderful would be sufficient donation that enabled us to set up an endowment fund, so that we can be more certain that services each year can be properly managed. All donations are helpful, and not just for the monetary value, they show us that the work is valued, that others find it worthwhile. Currently all donations have averaged $12,000 per year over the past three years. This does not allow for any effective increase in operating costs.

A generous donor has offered to match donations received.

Donate to NAMI Block Island, PO Box D2, BI RI 02807.

All gifts are fully tax deductible. 

Both nationally and in Rhode Island State, SAMSHA [The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration] are prioritizing initiatives that help provide treatment and services for people with mental and substance use disorders, support the families of people with mental and substance use disorders, build strong and supportive communities, prevent costly behavioral health problems, and promote better health for all Americans. “Now is the Time” is the President’s plan to increase access to mental health services. SAMHSA has played a key role in supporting a number of activities outlined in the plan to help build safer communities. NAMI BI is already planning to follow SAMSHA guidelines to launch Community Conversations on Mental Health to enable the Block Island Community. We have begun to build a Community Team (working collaboratively with other groups in the community). We also plan to offer a family series of group meetings.

To do this effectively we believe that at a minimum, we need access to funding for training group facilitators, and for travel, to training events. We think we are already using all the local expertise we have, given freely.

That is, our mission to provide Services, Support and Education, all need funding in the short term. In particular, the ongoing requirement to fund the Case Manager is a necessity for the services to continue even as they are now.

Donate to NAMI Block Island, PO Box D2, BI RI 02807.

*Trends Themes and Effective Practices in State legislation – NB Rhode Island has reduced its spending on Mental Health in past years, not because of less need. Maybe we need political influence too?

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