Media release

$2.6 million awarded for behavioral health care

Six nonprofit organizations are using $2.6 million in grants to support primary and secondary prevention models and high-quality, affordable behavioral health care services across the state. The funding is the first from the Behavioral Health Fund.

The Fund was created in August 2018 by the Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner with a commitment of $5 million in funding from Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI).

“Helping Rhode Islanders lead healthier lives is one of our priorities. These grants will address behavioral health needs before people are in crisis. This work will lead to better outcomes across the board while targeting communities that are disproportionately impacted by behavioral health issues."

- Foundation President & CEO Neil D. Steinberg
Kim Keck

“The organizations and projects we are funding today are truly impressive,” said Kim Keck, president and CEO of BCBSRI. “With innovative approaches and use of emerging best practices, we are confident they can achieve long-term, sustainable outcomes. I look forward to seeing great progress in the next few years and thank all of the organizations for helping us to realize our vision to passionately lead a state of health and well-being across Rhode Island.”

Gov. Gina Raimondo

“As Governor, expanding access to mental health treatment and support is one of my top priorities, and I’m excited to award the first round of Behavioral Health Fund grantees,” said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “As part of my administration’s effort to ensure that our state’s insurers are meeting Rhode Island’s mental and behavioral health care needs, last year OHIC conducted a market conduct exam that resulted in a financial settlement with Blue Cross Blue Shield Rhode Island. The Behavioral Health Fund was born out of that settlement.”

The Foundation received 62 requests for funding, which were reviewed by an advisory committee comprised of behavioral health care providers, policymakers and representatives of the health insurance industry. The grants will be paid over three years.

The Center for Evidence Based Practice at Bradley Hospital in East Providence was awarded $291,072 to partner with the Village for Rhode Island Foster and Adoptive Families and the Institute on Stress, Trauma and Resilience at Brown University to provide intensive, evidence-based child behavior management training and parenting support to foster families.

Behavioral health grants

“Young children placed in foster care are at high risk for behavioral and emotional difficulties and relationship problems, yet foster families often find it challenging to meet their significant needs. These children are therefore vulnerable to placement disruptions, which can have a profound impact on children’s mental health and development” said Stephanie Shepard Umaschi, director of the Center for Evidence Based Practice.

“Our goal is to break the toxic cycle often experienced by young children in foster care by providing foster families with the training and support needed to address the significant challenges associated with a history of child maltreatment. Ultimately, to promote children’s emotional and behavioral adjustment and reduce risk for negative long term outcomes that are costly to society,” said Umaschi.

Behavioral health grants

Care Transformation Collaborative of Rhode Island (CTC-RI) and PCMH Kids in Providence received $450,000 to test implementing a comprehensive Integrated Behavioral Health (IBH) service delivery program to increase the identification and treatment of behavioral health conditions before people are in crisis. Eight pediatric practices will be selected to test developmentally appropriate and evidence-based screening tools and treatment models that address early intervention in childhood social-emotional challenges.

“The pediatric medical home is the logical place for providing effective integrated mental health promotion, prevention and treatment because the pediatrician is the most likely medical professional that children and adolescents come in contact with during their early and adolescent years, and because for children, behavior and development are so much a part of their general health,” said Patricia Flanagan, PCMH Kids co-chair.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to expand our work in integrated behavioral health in primary care to children and families served by pediatricians. We have just concluded a successful three-year pilot for IBH in adult primary care practices. Focusing on early identification and intervention of behavioral health issues effecting children can have a profound effect on the long-term population health of Rhode Islanders,” said Debra Hurwitz, CTC-RI’s executive director.

Clinica Esperanza in Providence was awarded $300,000 to support its Vida Pura program, which will provide care to low-income, uninsured Hispanic immigrants with unmet behavioral needs.

“It is well known that stress associated with political and gang violence is causing people living in South and Central America to flee their homes and migrate to the United States. The process of immigration increases that mental stress and, in the case of women who are subjected to sexual violence on the border, may even compound the stress many times over,” said Annie De Groot, medical director.

Behavioral health grants

Clinica Esperanza’s Navegantes staff and volunteers will work with Sojourner House and medical and psychiatric residents at Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School.

“Our volunteers will provide healthcare to immigrants in Rhode Island, many of whom have immigration-related experiences of significant first order or second order violence and who have turned to abuse of alcohol to ’treat’ their illness,” De Groot said. “We look forward developing the Vida Pura program which will lead to less stress, increased optimism, and a reduction in alcohol abuse in our patient population.”

The Coventry Public School District (C-TIC) was awarded $440,356 to train educators, support staff, health workers, first responders and others who work directly with youth to identify early mental health needs.

Behavioral health grants

“Bringing all agencies of Coventry together to address our young people’s mental health, substance use and other needs before they are in crisis is the primary goal,” said Coventry Public Schools Superintendent Craig Levis. “Everyone is needed; everyone is responsible.”

The initiative grew out of an increasing awareness that children from all demographics can suffer lifelong-lasting trauma due factors such as poverty, domestic abuse, homelessness, death of a loved one, divorce and sexual mistreatment.

“C-TIC will increase trauma-informed education with a focus on reducing suicidal thoughts and attempts, drug use, bullying, school dropouts, criminal acts and other activities continuing into adulthood,” said Levis.

The Rhode Island Association for Infant Mental Health in Providence was awarded $599,113 to provide specialized training for a wide range of professionals who serve infants, young children and their families.

Behavioral health grants

“Our chance for positive outcomes for babies and families is strengthened when we commit to adequate training and support for our workforce. It’s best for babies when those providers who bear witness to a family’s deep struggles are supported with professional development and reflective supervision supports required to serve them well,” said Susan Dickstein, RIAIMH’s president.

Children under the age of three are the most likely to be homeless, live in poverty and experience effects of parental substance use disorders, maltreatment and neglect, according to Dickstein.

“Babies who develop in adverse circumstances can show mental health problems including behavior and emotion dysregulation and insecure attachment, potentially associated with lifelong impairment in health, mental health, and learning,” she said. “Breaking the cycle of adversity and promoting positive outcomes requires nurturing parent-child relationships. A key to success is a strong and well-supported infant/family workforce.”

Behavioral health grants

Rhode Island College (RIC) in Providence was awarded $599,641 to develop and deliver evidenced-based screening and treatment services for Rhode Island’s most vulnerable and underserved populations using a fully integrated medical and behavioral health model of service delivery.

“This project will deepen existing relationships between the Rhode Island College School of Social Work and two primary care leaders: Thundermist Health Center and the Rhode Island Free Clinic,” said Jayashree Nimmagadda, project director and interim dean of RIC’s School of Social Work.

The project will expand prevention and treatment services for the Free Clinic’s uninsured adult patients and patients of Thundermist Health Center in Woonsocket who have experienced trauma. The services will include screening for social determinants of health and service delivery through a tele-behavioral health suite.

“Our academic partnership will expand services, extend workforce development to educate the next generation of clinicians with a focus on diversity and further the health system transformation work that is taking place in the state of Rhode Island,” said Nimmagadda.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. Working with generous and visionary donors, the Foundation raised $114 million and awarded $52 million in grants to organizations addressing the state’s most pressing issues and needs of diverse communities in 2018. Through leadership, fundraising and grantmaking activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential.