The Block Island Times

NAMI Block Island: while donations come in, still a way to go

By Gloria S. Redlich | Feb 25, 2014

The Block Island Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (formerly the Mental Health Task Force) is gaining recognition and donations, according to the Rev. Steve Hollaway, chairman of the group.

Hollaway said the chapter has a balance of $17,863 and continues to receive donations in response to a fund-raising mailing sent out before the end of last year.

“We have received $5,870 [to date] that almost matches [Michael Brownstein’s] donation of $6,000,” Hollaway said. After the meeting, he acknowledged receipt of another gift.

At their meeting on Feb. 12, members were elated by the community’s initial response, but recognized they still had a way to go. They agreed to continue these efforts to maintain reliable mental health services in the community.

The task force was established a little more than three years ago and has been responsible, along with Brown University and Butler Hospital, for creating a telemedicine program that has allowed some 20 or so islanders to access mental health care from professionals via a Skype-like computer program.

In addition, the Brown-Butler connection has helped initiate an arrangement with South Shore Mental Health Center to bring a counselor to the island on alternate weeks. According to case worker Tracy Fredericks, who coordinates scheduling and introduces clients to each program, about seven individuals have been seen by the counselor.

Hollaway explained that while other fundraising efforts were being channeled into applications for grants, the group needed a strategy for identifying potential major donors, with a view to establishing an endowment to fund case manager Fredericks’s position and “to keep the program viable long-term.”

Among suggestions were forming a committee inviting potential donors and developing a few special fundraising events. Block Island Health Services Executive Director Barbara Baldwin, who is a member of the task force, suggested working with the state NAMI chapter and with the island’s Prevention Task Force to collaborate on finding grants.

Fredericks said, “We’re compiling a list of potential donors.” Socha Cohen added, “The largest donations come from personal contacts.”

Hollaway said he expected to hear by the end of February from the Endowment Committee of the Congregational Church in South Glastonbury, Conn., about NAMI B.I.’s request for $2,500.

Both Hollaway and Fredericks also reported on a recent meeting with Drs. Stephen Rasmussen of Butler and Robert Boland of Brown — both instrumental in developing and maintaining the telemedicine program. Their discussion focused on two items: the first was a requirement that the case worker be present at telemedicine sessions. The physicians said the requirement could be flexible, based on the client’s needs and individual situation.

The second was a discussion about fundraising, which focused on joint planning of grant applications and identification of those who might wish to make major donations to the program.

Hollaway and Fredericks also attended a meeting with Tom Arcangeli of South Shore Mental Health Center. Discussion centered on expansion and continuation of the counseling program. Because of anticipated state and federal budget cuts, as well as the recent merger of South Shore with Gateway, Arcangeli was concerned about the program’s funding, Fredericks said.

However, Fredericks said she felt assured that assistance would be available from the Mary D Fund for those with financial difficulties. Fredericks added she would continue to look into other resources as well.

Hollaway said that on March 20 he and Fredericks would meet again with Rasmussen at Butler, as well as with Patricia Melaragno, system director of marketing and communications for Care New England (Butler’s parent organization) and Michele R. Berard, director of development at Butler Hospital Foundation, to continue the discussion on fundraising.

Fredericks also said she had spoken with Block Island School Co-Principal Kristine Monje, who indicated a willingness to work with the task force, sharing resources and identifying ways to create programs appropriate for the school.

Hollaway also announced he had mailed the task force’s bylaws to Chaz Gross, director of NAMI-RI, and Marcia Boyd, chairwoman of the NAMI-RI board, for review. He said, “The next step will be for the bylaws to be approved by NAMI National.”

Ongoing issues for upcoming meetings include developing a family-to-family program, public programs for the summer, and care for youngsters through the telemedicine and South Shore program.

The next meeting was scheduled for March 7 at 9 a.m.

Those wishing to contribute should make out checks to NAMI BI and mail them c/o Harbor Church, P.O. Box D2, Block Island, RI 02807.

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