Telemedicine services getting closer
The telemedicine connection being created by the Block Island Mental Health Task Force is very close to becoming operational, Chair Steve Hollaway announced at a meeting on December 4. Case worker Tracy Fredericks, recently hired by the task force to liaise with a team of physicians at Butler Hospital and Brown University, has already begun to hear from people interested in finding mental health services for themselves, family members or friends.
Fredericks has nearly completed training and is waiting for her insurance coverage to be approved by Butler. She and members of the group are hopeful that the first appointments can be made for island residents before the end of the year.
In addition to a dedicated room at the Harbor Baptist Church, an alternative site for the telemedicine program is in the process of being developed at Block Island Health Services. Hollaway has been in conversation with acting Executive Director Peter Baute, who has made arrangements for the installation of a computer and a Wild Blue Internet high-speed connection.
Through his family foundation, island resident Michael Brownstein, who contributed the initial funds of over $20,000 to launch the telemedicine program, has offered to underwrite the creation of a site at the medical center as well.
As to the logistics of the Butler connection, Fredericks said while they were still being worked out, “We’re setting up two days a week when a doctor would be available.” Butler, she added, can work with individuals ages 13 and older.
Incorporation and outreach to NAMI
Concerned about being able to generate tax-deductible donations, the group is considering incorporation as a 501(c)3. Hollaway suggested going to the Ecumenical Ministries to come under their umbrella as other foundations, such as the Mary D and Roosa funds, have done.
Jim Hinthorn spoke of contact he’d made with members of the Rhode Island Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). He noted there was an individual who was interested in coming out to “establish a dialogue with us.” Among many other services NAMI provides is the dissemination of educational materials about mental illness, resources for those in need of services and support groups for families.
Socha Cohen, recently in Haiti with Habitat for Humanity, reported that she met and spoke with Rosalyn Carter, a longtime advocate for the rights of people dealing with mental illness, whose book “Within Our Reach: Ending the Mental Health Crisis” was released in 2010. With the task force looking for speakers, Cohen was asked to follow up with Carter and invite her to speak on the island — perhaps next summer. Cohen agreed to do so.
The next meeting was set for January 2 at 9 a.m.