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Governor McKee Highlights New Budget, Legislative Investments in Rhode Island's Behavioral Health Care System

RHODE ISLAND, August 18 - WARWICK, RI – Continuing his #RIMomuntum Tour, Governor Dan McKee was joined today by House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi, legislators, and advocates to highlight new legislative initiatives and budget investments aimed at strengthening the state's behavioral health care system.

Among the investments included in the budget signed by the Governor in June are:

- $30 million to begin the transition to the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHC) model of community-based mental health care which will improve access to care and the quality of care - $4.2 million to create a Mental Health Treatment Court - $8 million to build a 25-bed short stay unit at Butler Hospital to provide behavioral health care services, crisis intervention, and other related services - $1.9 million to support the 9-8-8 Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Crisis Hotline - $1 million for the design and engineering of suicide barriers on the state's four tallest bridges

These investments are in addition to $170 million that the state is investing in Eleanor Slater Hospital over the next several years to pay for renovations, new construction, and an electronic medical records system.

"We all know that behavioral health care is an essential component of our health care system, and these investments will result in more support and better results," said Governor Dan McKee. "The 988 hotline and the transition to the CCBHC model of community-based health care will help us reach and help more people. In the long run, this will reduce the need for longer-term hospitalizations. At the same time, having a Mental Health Court will divert people away from the criminal justice system and connect them with community-based treatment services, and adding barriers to our largest bridges will help to save lives."

Richard Charest, Director of the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, said the transition to a CCBHC model is critical. "CCBHCs offer mental health and substance use treatment services, including 24/7 mobile crisis response, which enables the team to engage clients where they are. This reduces the transportation barrier when someone is in crisis. CCBHCs also provide a comprehensive range of services for anyone who needs help with behavioral health or substance use conditions."

Director Charest noted that Rhode Island has consistently had the best in-state call response rate for the suicide prevention line, and that trend appears to be continuing with the new 988 suicide and crisis prevention lifeline.

House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi said, "Working closely with Governor McKee, the General Assembly included many facets of behavioral health investments in the budget. I am proud we addressed this issue from many fronts, ranging from community-based mental health care to school-based services that expand social, emotional and behavioral programs for students. Access to behavioral health care is necessary for our families, and our whole state, to thrive."

The Governor also ceremonially signed the following bills related to behavioral health:

H6667B (Ranglin-Vassell) and S2556A (Cano): This legislation directs the commissioner of elementary and secondary education to establish a trauma-informed schools implementation plan to support to support the academic, behavioral, social and emotional needs of all students.

H7501 (McNamara) and S2605 (DiMario): This legislation increases public access to professional psychological services by allowing for telepsychological practice across state lines as well as temporary in-person, face-to-face services in a state where the psychologist is not licensed to practice psychology.

"Each and every one of us experiences trauma at some point in our lives, some more than others, and the trauma we experience as children can shape our lives forever. The difference that determines whether we are able to be resilient and recover is whether we are supported by those in our community," said Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell (D-Dist. 5, Providence), who works as a teacher at E-Cubed Academy in Providence. "In schools, teachers like myself see kids suffering every day from the trauma they have experienced, particularly during the pandemic the last couple of years. The mental-emotional needs of our children need to be met with care, and teachers and staff need resources to know how they can respond in ways that are helpful."

Said Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket), Chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, "By enacting the Trauma Informed Schools Act today, we are helping children and educators address the growing mental health concerns of children. This law will also help our educators who often struggle to meet the needs of these children. By supporting students' needs around the issues of trauma, we will help them come to school better prepared to learn and provide them with the opportunities they deserve to set them on the path for lifelong success."

"As lawmakers, we have been working on creative ways to reduce the barriers providers face in obtaining a license to practice," said Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston). "The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that one in four adults, or 60 million people, experience mental illness. This legislation is another creative way to address the shortage of mental health professionals to get all Rhode Islanders the care that they need."

"Through passage of this legislation, we would be joining 33 other states to allow for telehealth services across state lines in participating states with a universal credential through the compact that maintains high standards of patient protection and care," said Sen. Alana M. DiMario (D-Dist. 36, Narragansett, North Kingstown). "Without passage of this bill the temporary COVID waivers allowing this will expire at the end of June, which would leave many Rhode Islanders suddenly without access to their treatment and many providers having to end care for their out of state patients."

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