The Block Island Times

Mental health telemedicine serving islanders

By Gloria S. Redlich | Apr 16, 2013

Up to 12 island residents have begun taking advantage of the telemedicine link that Butler Hospital in Providence has created to provide mental health services to islanders, according to Steve Hollaway, Chair of the Block Island Mental Health Task Force (MHTF).

Last year, after enlisting the efforts of physicians at Brown Medical School and Butler, the task force developed the telemedicine program, which was fully implemented a few months ago. The first facility was set up at Harbor Church, where Hollaway is also pastor. A second location is being arranged at the Block Island Medical Center.

At the group’s meeting on April 5, Hollaway said case manager Tracy Fredericks had been taking phone calls, providing information, arranging appointments and setting up sessions. All arrangements remain completely confidential. Those interested in contacting Fredericks may call (207) 229-6349 or email her at .

NAMI interested in local efforts

MHTF member Jim Hinthorn has been exploring a connection with the Rhode Island Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Hinthorn has been in touch with NAMI Director Charles Gross, and said that group is very interested in meeting with the Block Island task force. The groups are working out the details for attending a meeting on the island.

Task force members discussed the possibility of a joint meeting on May 3 and are planning a public meeting to coincide with a showing of “Silver Linings Playbook” — a comedy-drama that explores mental health issues — that night at Harbor Church. Hollaway and Hinthorn said they will explore more possibilities with Gross.

Hinthorn also distributed a press release indicating that Sen. Jack Reed had recently met with community leaders in the mental health field to discuss strengthening services “to identify, treat and care for people … experiencing mental and behavioral health issues,” according to Hinthorn. Among those leaders were NAMI representatives, including Director Gross.

Speaker series

The task force also discussed programming for the upcoming season, including the continuation of a series of talks begun last year and researching speakers for that series. The group would like to sponsor a two-part program on bullying: one for local school students and another for the general public.

Members agreed to reach out to film and television actor Joe Pantolino, who’s made a documentary called “No Kidding! Me 2!” The group would like to invite Pantolino to speak about his life, his film and his efforts to dispel the taboos associated with mental illness.

Hollaway explained that the Block Island Ministries could only carry MHTF under its nonprofit umbrella for one year, but that they were “willing to pay any fees we need to help us get our own independent status.” It was agreed the year would give the group time to work toward that end.

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