Nearly $1.7 million in grants to help Rhode Islanders cope with the behavioral health challenges of the COVID-19 crisis
Thirty-one organizations will receive funding from the COVID-19 Behavioral Health Fund established by the Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner and health insurers at the Rhode Island Foundation
The Rhode Island Foundation today announced nearly $1.7 million in grants to help Rhode Islanders cope with the behavioral health challenges of the COVID-19 crisis. The programs range from offering counseling to survivors of domestic violence to helping children cope with the pandemic via telehealth services.
“The health and economic effects of the pandemic are creating significant behavioral health challenges for too many in our community,” said Neil D. Steinberg, president and CEO of the Foundation. “We hope this funding gives our nonprofit partners the resources to help address the increases in depression, isolation, suicide and substance abuse that we are seeing during these challenging times.”
With this second round of grants, the fund has distributed more than $5.3 million in funding since May.
“It is critical that we use this funding from our health insurers to meet some of the elevated pressures and challenges that this pandemic has placed on on our behavioral health care providers and the individuals and families that need these vital health care services,” said state Health Commissioner Marie Ganim.
Child & Family in Middletown, Thrive Behavioral Health in Warwick, Women’s Refugee Care in Providence and Wood River Health Services in Hope Valley are among the 31 organizations that received funding. (See the full list of awardees and a brief description of what each grant will support.)
Child & Family will hire a clinical care coordinator in order to meet the increase in behavioral health needs in East Bay communities as a result of the pandemic. The additional staff will support their current team to quickly screen clients and link them to appropriate services. Child & Family expects the grant will enable it to serve an additional 55 clients.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc on the communities we serve. Sudden job loss has left many of our clients unable to pay for food, medication, housing, and transportation among other things. The social distancing mandate, while in place to keep the vulnerable safe, has separated many of our clients from the family, friends, and other supports they relied on to maintain their mental and physical health. The impact of isolation - particularly on children and the elderly - increases the risk for abuse, domestic violence, and substance use. Child & Family will increase our behavioral health services in order to meet the needs of new and existing clients in crisis,” said Marty Sinnott, Child & Family’s president and CEO.
Thrive Behavioral Health will expand its telehealth services for individuals struggling with increased mental health symptoms and substance use in response to the pandemic. The funding will enable Thrive to purchase laptops and headsets so its staff can increase teletherapy capacity.
“In this unprecedented time of uncertainty, Rhode Islanders and their families are experiencing stress and, in some cases, increased mental health symptoms, including anxiety and depression,” said Daniel Kubas-Meyer, Thrive’s president and CEO. “Reach out for help. Teletherapy has proven to be a very effective method for individuals to gain immediate access to vital tools that could help them improve their quality of life."
Women’s Refugee Care (WRC) will help staff treat a surge in anxiety, depression, addiction, anger and suicidal thoughts among their clients. The organization also instituted telemedicine to stabilize and improve the behavioral health of its clients, who are primarily refugees.
"The funding will also support Women's Refugee Care adopt in-person services for refugees to include weekly virtual therapy groups for refugee women with PTSD, rapid coordination of transport to the hospital, and scheduling of medical appointments by phone or email with language translation," said Aline Binyungu, WRC’s executive director
"COVID-19 brought tremendous hardship to the refugee community in Rhode Island; 90 percent worked in the hotel industry and they were laid off during the pandemic. This situation of desperation brings many to collapse in alcohol subsistence and need therapy,” said WRC Project Manager Clement Shabani.
Wood River Health Center will expand its telehealth services by purchasing 20 tablets for use as loaners for behavioral health clients who need to be seen via virtual visits. The organization estimates expanding its telehealth services will enable it to treat an additional 60 patients this year who might not have been seen any other way. In addition, the behavioral health staff will be trained on effective use of telehealth, focusing on best practices in the field.
"The training will focus on the recognition and treatment of complicated grief, a condition where grieving the loss of a person or a sudden major life change such as those caused by the pandemic is complicated by adjustment disorders, major depression, substance use and post-traumatic stress disorder. Our behavioral health staff will use this training both to treat clients and to support our medical staff in identifying complicated grief in their patients," said Alison Croke, Wood River’s president and CEO. “These funds will provide a tremendous boost in our efforts to directly address issues our patients are experiencing every day as a result of this pandemic."
This is the second round of grants from the COVID-19 Behavioral Health Fund at the Foundation, established by the state Office of the Health Commissioner (OHIC) with more than $5 million in funding from Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island, Tufts Health Plan and UnitedHealthCare.
More than three dozen organizations shared $3.7 million in grants in the initial round of funding in May.
"Supporting the mental health of Rhode Islanders has always been essential, but now more than ever, we need to ensure that everyone has access to the care they need," said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. "These grants will support Rhode Islanders’ behavioral health needs, which in many cases have been worsened by this crisis. While we must practice social distancing, it’s important that we not become isolated from the help we need as we fight this virus.”
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 $47 million and awarded a record $56 million in grants to organizations addressing the state’s most pressing issues and needs of diverse communities in 2019. Through leadership, fundraising and grant-making activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential.