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

Half Year Report, July – November 2018

NAMI BI Half Year Report [for year July 2018- December 2018]

[Further detail of activities on  annual report 2017-2018]

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:
President: Jim Hinthorn
Vice-President: Kristin Baumann
Treasurer: Pat Tengwall
Secretary: Elspeth Crawford
Members: Beth Gaffett Tengwall, Gloria Redlich, Socha Cohen, Kyra Ernst,Sue Hagedorn , Tracy Fredericks (case manager)


At the November Board meeting, income and expenditure are as expected for the time of year. Pat Tengwall reported that the funds raised have been declining. It has been decided that the yearly request for donations would be sent earlier, in December 2018.

Services – Ongoing

Members of NAMI BI Family Support Group continue to meet on the first Saturday each month throughout the year.

The telemedicine service provided by psychiatrist resident doctors from Butler Hospital and the Alpert Medical School of Brown University is located in the Block Island Health Services [BIHS] building. The Case Manager, on-island, is required to be in attendance to make the service available, people are seen weekly, and she also takes referrals and makes appointments. She reports that although uptake of the service is variable and seasonal, with an average of eight in the previous year, at the moment there are eleven clients.

NAMI BI continues to liaise with BIHS regarding this telemedicine service, and also works cooperatively with BIHS and mainland providers to enable members of the community to find appropriate licensed counseling and other services both on and off the island. There are three counselors who visit the island with whom on-island appointments can be arranged.

Services – New Developments

NAMI BI coordinated meetings with Dr. Mark Clark Director of BIHS, representatives from BI School, Butler Hospital, and Bradley Hospital [the RI Pediatric and Adolescent Mental Health Hospital], requesting that the needs of children be considered. Dr. Peter Oppenheimer, a Clinical Psychologist, now comes to the island every two weeks, working with referrals from the school and through the medical center. Jeffrey Hunt, MD, Director of inpatient and intensive services at Bradley Hospital, is now working with BIHS, Dr. Oppenheimer and BI school to bring telehealth pediatric psychiatry provision to BI.


Given the new developments in Services, the Mental Health Month Spring Conference next May will focus on children. It will be held on Saturday May 18, 2019, titled Children and Teens, “Won’t They Just Grow Out Of It?”. Jeff Hunt, from Bradley, and Dr. Liz Jorgensen, Insight Counseling, Connecticut, have agreed to speak, and they and Dr. Oppenheimer are available for consultation to plan specific details.

A summer program during July and August was planned as follow-up to ideas expressed during the May 2018 Spring Conference [on Depression]. Every second Saturday morning, a meeting was held in the Island Free Library, where a TED talk was viewed and discussion facilitated by NAMI BI member Elspeth Crawford. Both community members and visitors participated, with between 6 -10 participants at each meeting. One visitor commented “this is an incredible place, where such informative and ongoing conversations on this subject can happen”.
The program of viewing was:
June 23 Johann Hari Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong
July 14  Eleanor Longden The Voices in my Head
July 28 Joshua Walters On Being Just Crazy Enough
Aug 11 D J Jaffe  Serious Mental Illness
Aug 25 Vikram Patel Mental Health for All

BI Wellness Coalition

Recent changes in the RI strategic plan for the prevention of alcohol and substance abuse have meant that the BI Wellness Coalition has been subsumed into the South County Regional Coalition. Programs particular to Block Island are no longer supported directly under the leadership of the Wellness Coordinator [Jill Seppa] as they were previously. NAMI BI has often worked closely with the Wellness Coalition on the island, and recognizes the overlap in dual diagnosis of addictions and mental illness. In August 2018 the Board decided to partner BI Wellness so that the valuable work done and the knowledge of needs in our community would not be lost. Jill Seppa has joined the NAMI BI Board, and is working with the Board to create the details of a partnership fruitful to each.

Elspeth Crawford,  11/17/2018