Mental Health, Mental Illness, on Block Island

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

Annual Report 2017- 2018

NAMI BI Report [for year July 2017- June 2018] 

Mission Statement: NAMI BLOCK ISLAND is a nonprofit organization whose purposes are to bring mental health services to the island, to educate the public about mental illness in order to reduce stigma, and to provide support for families of persons with mental illness.

Board Members in 2017 2018:

President: Steve Hollaway, resigned in June 2018 on leaving BI, to be replaced by Jim Hinthorn.

Members: Jim Hinthorn, Pat Tengwall (treasurer). Beth Gaffett Tengwall, Gloria Redlich, Socha Cohen, Kristin Baumann, Kyra Ernst, Elspeth Crawford, Tracy Fredericks (case manager)


From the Treasurer’s Report, which is attached as an appendix, the year was satisfactory. Activities and expenses are in accord with the income available. Members of NAMI BI serve voluntarily. The Telemedicine Case Manager is paid as an independent contractor for hours worked, to which the Town of New Shoreham makes a contribution, approximately half that required. All other income is from donation, from individuals and other organizations. The graphic below has been used to give an overview of NAMI BI aims and activities when communicating with a variety of organizations, residents and visitors in the community. It gives an idea of how funds raised are spent.

namistrategywithboxes.jpgThe work done in Services, Education and Support, are often interlinked. NAMI BI Board members contribute to all and to each.


In 2017, Members of NAMI BI trained to offer a Family Support Group that has met on the first Saturday each month throughout the year. Nine individuals have used this service, and attendance at meetings has varied from three to seven people.

NAMI BI provides the Case Manager for the telemedicine service on-island. This service is provided by psychiatrist resident doctors from Butler Hospital and the Alpert Medical School of Brown University. In 2017 access to the telemedicine service was moved to the Block Island Health Services building, where it is now located. The Case Manager on-island is required to be in attendance to make the service available, and she also takes referrals and makes appointments. Although uptake of the service is variable and seasonal, on average eight people are seen weekly.

NAMI BI cannot endorse services as it is neither a licensing nor qualifying professional body, but it advocates to bring appropriate licensed counseling and other services to the island. In 2017- 2018, three counselors have come to the island. The availability of a specific counselor is the decision of the counselor or his/her employing organization in consultation with clients. [Clients are seen with the regularity that can be arranged, for example once weekly or once every two weeks.] NAMI BI communicates how to access these services through the Block Island Times, and through its website.

NAMI BI also works cooperatively with the Block Island Health Service to enable members of the community to find a service. As records are the responsibility of the service providers, NAMI BI does not have access to numbers, but does have contact with the counselors, their supervising organizations and Butler psychiatrists and understand that the services are being well used by enough people to justify the time and intention to continue.   

In 2017 and 2018, NAMI BI coordinated meetings with the staff from Butler Hospital who are responsible for the telemedicine service and with staff from the Block Island Health Service. NAMI BI requested that the needs of children be considered. In the meeting of May 2018, Dr. Mark Clark agreed to coordinate with Block Island School to engage the services of a Clinical Psychologist who could visit on-island at regular intervals. Dr. Peter Oppenheimer now comes every two weeks, working with referrals from the school and the medical center. Also at this meeting Dr. Tracy Guthrie, supervisor of the psychiatric interns from Butler who provide the telemedicine service, was asked how the changeover of interns each year was managed with regard to the clients of the service. To add to the information already given, a plan to ease the yearly transition via online introductions has been put in place.

A further meeting to consider telemedicine service for children was planned for October 2018. NAMI BI facilitated this meeting also, with attendance from BI School and Bradley Hospital as well as from Butler and the Medical Center. Developments are in progress.

It is appreciated that the work done to enable all these services involves the organizations in legal and supervisory matters, an understanding of the HIPAA regulations, as well as the detailed logistics of intern timetabling and/or travel to the island within the working time available. NAMI BI plays a part in communication and negotiation and is very grateful for the helpful attitudes to its concerns as well as the work done. Previous advocacy from many organizations as well as state and national NAMI groups have resulted in health insurance being applicable to telemedicine generally and to telepsychiatry. Services can be more easily made available to those who need them.

  1. Education

Community Conversations continued informally throughout the year. The CC initiative was begun in 2015 following SAMHSA guidelines, and involved Board members meeting with others in the community, representing all of its different aspects. Having made the connections, these conversations have continued, particularly with the BI Health Center, BI School, the Wellness Coalition, the Town Council and Police and Emergency Service. This year a small initiative to provide “Community Conversation Benches” led to appropriate notices being placed at the Library and outside the BI Chamber of Commerce, and letters of information to other island groups disseminated information.

When New Shoreham Town Council discussed the financial support from the town for the telemedicine Case Manager, and the need for a Community Care coordinator, NAMI BI Board members represented both these needs, and enabled mental health matters to be more widely understood [see “support” below]. New Shoreham has allocated $7000 in this year for the Case Manager, approximately half the salary required, and appointed a part-time Welfare Director/ Community Care Coordinator, whose remit includes help for those who are mentally ill as for general care and welfare needs.

Feedback from the community had indicated concerns with isolation, anxiety, depression, and stresses. On Friday 18 / Saturday 19 May 2018, during Mental Health Month, Block Island Spring Conference was held on the topic: Depression: A Community Conversation – what do we know? what can we do? Attendance was good, with 25 – 30 people from Block Island residents and visitors at each of the events. A full conference report is at

As a follow-up, in June 2018, NAMI BI hosted an event from the QPR Institute for Suicide Prevention. Those attending, about 20 people, found it both useful and informative. This was also supported by the Island Free Library who provided the venue and by the Block island Wellness Coalition.


As well as directly providing the Family Support Group service, NAMI BI advocates for needs that support families and individuals affected by Mental Illness. This year New Shoreham Town Council has allocated $7000 for the telemedicine Case Manager, approximately half the salary required, and appointed a part-time Welfare Director/ Community Care Coordinator, whose remit includes help for those who are mentally ill as for general care and welfare needs. Advocacy for support is often combined with education about Mental Illness generally and NAMI BI in particular, and about the provision, or lack of provision, that is available in particular to residents, workers and visitors on the island.