The Block Island Times

Local mental health task force seeks national affiliation

By Gloria S. Redlich | Jun 13, 2013

Following the decision of the Block Island Mental Health Task Force (MHTF) to affiliate with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the local group is in the process of meeting procedural guidelines established by the state chapter. MHTF members discussed these at its June 5 meeting.

Several clerical tasks need to be completed: filling out an affiliate agreement, opening a new bank account, writing bylaws, adopting articles of organization and an affiliate mission statement and using NAMI in the group’s letterhead or in the name of organization, if the group so desired.

“I wouldn’t change the name of the group because it might dilute recognition. People already recognize the MHTF,” said member Michael Brownstein. Members agreed and had no problem with incorporating the NAMI logo in its own literature.

In explaining the mission of the MHTF to new member Elspeth Crawford, Chair Steve Hollaway said the group’s mission included providing mental health services to island residents and educating the public to increase awareness of mental illness, decrease its stigma and provide support for family members of those suffering with it.

Hollaway reported to the group on his recent participation in a NAMI conference at which he was asked to speak and was presented with an award. He said he was particularly interested in NAMI’s family-to-family support groups and hoped someone could be found to attend an intensive weekend training program to be sponsored by NAMI in the near future.

Interest in talk therapy

Caseworker Tracy Fredericks noted there was interest by some islanders in “talk therapy,” and Brownstein wondered whether Brown University could provide it in addition to the current telemedicine connection between the island and Brown/Butler Hospital.

Hollaway said while he hadn’t spoken about it with people from Brown, he had begun a discussion with the South Shore Center in Wakefield, which has expressed interest in working with the MHTF. Members agreed to continue looking into the possibilities of offering talk therapy.

Brownstein also wondered whether there had been an attempt to connect with pediatricians. “If there are kids on the island who need help, could we connect them,” he asked. Members agreed they should look into broadening the relationship with Butler or establish one with another agency to cover children as well.

Reporting on the telemedicine program she manages, Fredericks noted that there were currently 17 people using the service. Referrals are made through the medical center and police department, she said, though people may contact her directly by calling (207) 229-6349. Though a room has been dedicated for telemedicine uses at the medical center, Fredericks said most people to date have chosen to come to the facility at the Harbor Church.

The group discussed what they thought was a good shift in the national model of providing mental health care, which was integrating it into general health care. Local members approved the new direction.

Planning for speaker series

The group discussed possible topics and speakers for a series to run throughout the summer. Since one potential subject was substance abuse and addiction, a topic that continues to concern island residents, Brownstein offered to speak on the brain chemistry of addiction, incorporating some discussion of related pharmacology, if people were interested.

Other suggestions included asking island resident and psychology professor Arietta Slade to return either to speak on Attachment Theory or on some other aspects of parent-child relationship, perhaps with connections to drug abuse issues. Slade was one of last year’s MHTF speakers.

Hollaway said someone from NAMI would come out for the next MHTF meeting to help with the affiliation process. That meeting was set for Friday, July 12 at 10 a.m.

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