Mind and Body

BH Link opens as hotline, crisis and triage center

New facility is envisioned as a one-stop shop for mental health, behavioral health issues

Photo by Richard Asinof

Gov. Gina Raimondo, newly elected to her second term as governor, spoke at the unofficial launch of BH LInk in East Providence.

By Richard Asinof
Posted 11/12/18
BH Link, a new one-stop shop of behavioral and mental health crises, will open this week in East Providence, offering coordinated services and interventions.
How does alcohol intoxication fit within the framework of the new facility’s focus? What kinds of data and research will be conducted to inform future policy decisions around mental health and behavioral health issues? Will the new facility incorporate a broader view about the diseases of despair – deaths from alcohol, suicide and drugs, tied to economic conditions? What is the status of the purchase of some 3,000 fentanyl test strips by the state?
In a world where the tendency is to divide everything into dichotomies, perhaps the biggest divide is around those who have health insurance through their job and those who don’t, resulting in an increasing number of uninsured and under-insured Rhode Islanders. When Kerri Giacomini spoke of her own experiences, she talked about how many of the mental health providers who were recommended to her did not take any form of insurance and only took patients on a private paying basis, outside of her reach. As admirable as the new BH Link facilities goals are, it remains to be seen how the priorities match up with those populations without health insurance. While access to medication assisted treatment has expanded, at last count, there were still more than 400 people on the waiting list for recovery housing in Rhode Island.

EAST PROVIDENCE – It was standing room only on Friday, Nov. 9, as more than 100 members of the news media, dignitaries and government officials attended the unofficial “opening” and tour of BH Link, a new one-stop shop hotline and triage center for mental health and substance use disorders on Waterman Avenue, in what had been the location of a former jewelry store outlet as part of an industrial strip office building.

As one current tenant of the building remarked, after the event, taking photographs, “The parking lot has never been so full.”

The actual official opening is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 14, which, as Jim Rycek, the CEO of Horizon Healthcare Partners, quipped in his role as emcee, no news media and government officials will be allowed in the building, in order to maintain the privacy and confidentiality of patients.

The new facility will serve as a 24/7 center for Rhode Islanders experiencing behavioral health crises, including substance use disorders. The services include: a crisis and suicide hotline, housing and basic needs referrals, mobile crisis services, short-term psychiatric services, substance use disorder assessments and education, and domestic violence assessments and referrals.

The operation is a partnership between the R.I. Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals, the Community Care Alliance, and Horizon Healthcare Partners. The Rhode Island Foundation provided a $300,000 bridge loan to cover the startup costs of the new facility.

At the unofficial opening launch, Kerri Giacomini, a peer specialist with Community Care Alliance, shared her own story about behavioral health issues and the importance of finding a safe place where people were willing to listen.

Both Gov. Gina Raimondo and BHDDH Director Rebecca Boss spoke, along with Jessica David, executive vice president at The Rhode Island Foundation.

Following the launch, a gaggle of news media gathered around the Governor, not so much to talk about the new BH Link facility but to ask about the potential that Hasbro might be planning to move its headquarters, as well as continuing fallout regarding issues of sexual harassment at the State House.

Where does alcohol intoxication fit in?
In the news release, it cited recent data that showed “about 15 percent of emergency room visits are behavioral health-related.”

But it was unclear, talking with sources after the event, exactly how the new BH Link will be incorporating incidences of alcohol intoxication, one of the most prevalent reasons for EMS transports to hospital emergency rooms.

Further, the pilot Recovery Navigation Program, run by the Providence Center as a diversion program for EMS transports for those patients with alcohol intoxication, shut down in July of 2018, over a problem with reimbursements.

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