May 2023

In This Issue:
  • 200 People Stood Up for Access to Mental Health Care
  • 2023 Policy Priorities
  • NAMI RI & MHARI Team Up to Talk Policy
  • Tell Leaders Why We Need an Olmstead Plan -- May 30 at State House
  • Brown Students Help Advocate for Parity
  • From the Desk of MHARI Community Engagement Manager Terry Charles
  • Thanks to May Is Mental Health Sponsors & Supporters!
200 People Stood Up for Access to Mental Health Care
On April 27, 200 Rhode Islanders met at the State House to stand up for access to mental healthcare. The Mental Health Association and a coalition of community and state partners kicked off May Is Mental Health Month with a State House rally and award ceremony. 

Megan Clingham, Director of the RI Office of the Mental Health Advocate, was awarded Mental Health Hero of the Year for her compassion and relentless advocacy for people with serious persistent mental illness . “It is an honor to receive this recognition from my colleagues in mental health advocacy,” said Megan Clingham. 

Senator Joshua Miller and Representative Jacquelyn Baginski received Legislator of the Year awards for their 2022 legislation establishing Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs) in Rhode Island. Representative Baginski notes, “There's no denying that we are experiencing a mental health crisis across all age groups here in Rhode Island and across the country. We need to strengthen our system capacity, connect more people to care, and create a continuum of support to address mental health equitably.” Senator Miller added, “CCBHCs are an important part of a robust system of care, which is a priority for me and other legislators.”

The event highlighted the importance of investment in Rhode Island’s behavioral healthcare system. Community members called on leaders to continue the important work started last year. The investments allocated by policymakers in 2022, including for development of CCBHC’s, are important to saving lives, but just a start. After decades of low reimbursement rates paid by Medicaid and commercial insurers and under-investment in community-based programs and services, it will take a sustained effort to rebuild our broken system so that every Rhode Islander has access to the services they need to be well and thrive. 

We all know someone struggling with mental illness or a substance use disorder. The RI Department of Health reports that over 270,000 Rhode Islanders have a known behavioral health diagnosis, a category that includes various mental health and substance use disorders (SUD). The COVID pandemic took a toll on our collective behavioral health and we are experiencing the aftermath of a national increase in suicide, overdose deaths, and other behavioral health issues. We are in a crisis to meet the needs of Rhode Islanders.

Today, we continue to experience a system where children and adults needing services languish on wait lists for weeks, even months; hospitalized children and adults, ready to be at home, are delayed in the hospital because of a lack of available outpatient services for safe discharge; and, while those ready to go home are forced to remain, those in urgent need of hospital care can’t get an available bed, putting their lives at risk. 

The Mental Health Association of Rhode Island, in coalition with advocates and organizations, has proposed a package of legislation representing a multi-pronged approach to rebuild a quality system of care and to improve prevention and safety.

May Is Mental Health Month (MIMHM) began in 1949 to recognize the importance of addressing the needs of people living with mental illness. It is also an opportunity to share our stories in the hope of ending stigma and celebrating recovery.

Missed the rally? You can watch the video by clicking here.
2023 Policy Priorities
Click here to review the 2023 policy priorities that MHARI and our allies are working on to help towards rebuilding a quality system of mental health care for all Rhode Islanders.
How to track state legislative bills: First, create an account on the General Assembly's website here. Click "Manage Bills." Then click "Add Bills." Type in the bill number from the 2023 policy priorities and hit "Search." Check the box next to the bill and hit "Subscribe." If entering more than one bill at a time, use commas to separate them but no spaces. If you want to check the status of a bill, click here. If you are entering more than one bill at a time, use commas but no spaces.
NAMI RI & MHARI Team Up to Talk Policy
On April 25, Beth Lamarre of NAMI RI and Laurie Pisciotta of MHARI co-hosted a virtual policy briefing to highlight current legislation most important to mental health patients. While MHARI works collaboratively with behavioral health professionals and organizations, this special event focuses on what is mostly likely to help people with lived experience who need or receive services. The briefing touched on access to services, youth mental health, decriminalizing mental illness and preventive measures. Watch the video recording here.
Tell Leaders Why We Need an Olmstead Plan May 30th at the State House!
There is power in numbers! Please join MHARI and a coalition of state and community partners on Tuesday, May 30 at 3:00-3:30 pm in the State House Library (2nd floor). Let's band together and tell our leaders that Rhode Island is long overdue for an Olmstead Plan. 

Senator DiPalma, sponsor of Senate Bill 795, will speak along with people with lived experience. We will urge our leaders to support the Joint Resolution to establish an Olmstead Planning Committee in Rhode Island (Senate Bill 795 and House Bill 5882).

While this event is brief, strong attendance will convey the importance of passing these bills. Please join us, and bring coworkers, friends and family. 

Click here to learn more about why Rhode Island needs an Olmstead Plan.
Brown Students Help Advocate for Parity!
Brown University juniors enrolled in an Anthropology of Mental Health seminar chose to support MHARI's effort to pass parity in reimbursement legislation H5657. They researched the bill, interviewed those with lived experience and the bill sponsor Representative Theresa Tanzi, and created an easy to read and engaging series of slides to help educate others about this important legislation. Check out the slides on the MHARI Instragram page by clicking here, share with others, and email your own state Representative to urge them to support the bill. Find your own Rep here.

The students also joined the more than 200 people that rallied on May 27th at the State House, using what they had learned in their research to share important information with legislators. MHARI thanks them for their great work! It's inspiring to see a whole new generation of advocates working together for positive change.
From the Desk of:
MHARI Community Engagement Manager Terry Charles
Some of you may remember Nina DiBenedetto from last month’s newsletter when we shared her story of overcoming crippling mental health issues to once again compete for the title of Miss Rhode Island/USA at the upcoming pageant, scheduled for May 27th and 28th at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium.

Nina reached out to MHARI and asked if she could fundraise for us. The culmination of her efforts was on full display at a special event on April 29th at the Park Theatre in Cranston. Scores were on hand and many attendees stopped at the MHARI information table to learn about our mission for fostering mental well being, to thank us for the work we are doing, and to share their own personal lived experiences. As MHARI’s new Community Engagement Manager, it was truly heartwarming to meet and hear from everyone.

MHARI thanks Nina for having the courage to speak openly about her own mental health, for raising much needed funds for the organization, and wishes her the best of luck on May 27th. Thank you Nina!

If you or your organization is hosting a special event, health fair, or other community engagement opportunity, let me know!

Email me at I can't make it to every event, but am building a calendar of opportunities to meet people, share important MHARI resources, and to organize to help break the stigma of mental illness.
Thank You May is Mental Health Month
Sponsors and Supporters
And, thank you again to the many Rhode Islanders who turned out to help kick-off May is Mental Health Month and to rally for the important policies to help build a quality system of mental health care for all Rhode Islanders!
Did someone forward you this newsletter?
Sign up to receive your copy.
Upcoming meetings, webinars, special invitations, and events!

May 30th, 3:00 pm, State House Join us for an event to call for a state Olmstead Plan!

Behavioral Health & Homelessness Prevention Training Group (BHHP)
BHHP offers trainings to support those working in the field and has a whole calendar of valuable trainings both virtual and in-person. Thanks to RI’s Consolidated Homeless Funds, SAMHSA and BHDDH all trainings are free of charge. Registration is required however. Click here for the calendar and to register. Any training questions or suggestions for future trainings can be directed to

Ongoing trainings for mental health professionals
The Substance Use Mental Health Leadership Council (SUMHLC) offers a number of useful trainings for providers. Click here for a listing of training opportunities available, and check back periodically as new classes are added.
The Mission of the
Mental Health Association of RI (MHARI) is to promote and nourish mental health through advocacy, education, and policy development.

Our website is filled with resources to help those living with mental health challenges. Please feel free to visit the site as often as you need. Your shares of relevant pages on your social media could offer just the help that someone needs. Thank You!
The Mental Health Association of RI (MHARI) is a private, 501(c)3 non-profit organization and is 100% funded by grants and donations.
Won't you consider supporting MHARI today?