The Kent Center — 2-1-2004

News & Events

Press Release

Rhode Island’s Community Mental Health Organizations, DMHRH Receive National Recognition for Station Fire Crisis Response

For Immediate Release
Contact: Elizabeth V. Earls

The Rhode Island Council of Community Mental Health Organizations, Inc. is pleased to announce that its member organizations and the RI Department for Mental Health, Retardation and Hospitals have been selected to receive the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare (NCCBH) Community Crisis Response Award of Excellence. The Award will be presented at the NCCBH Annual Meeting on March 1, 2004, in New Orleans, LA.

In the hours and days immediately following the most tragic fire in Rhode Island’s history, the state department for mental health, retardation and hospitals, utilizing its community mental health organizations, became responsible for: providing a compassionate response to the waiting families; accompanying families on visits to the site and at community services and vigils; being a member of the three-person death notification teams along with department of health representatives and clergy. As days turned into weeks, the community mental health organizations and DMHRH provided services at the Family Resource Center, and other community locations. By May, over 1600 hours of service had been provided.

“When Rhode Island first established community mental health centers over 40 years ago,” stated Elizabeth Earls, President/CEO of the RI Council of Community Mental Health Organizations, “the intent was to enable these centers to meet the mental health needs of their respective communities. Since then, limited resources have meant that organizations have focused their efforts on the most severely disabled individuals living with mental illnesses. The response provided by our member organizations and our state department of mental health to this terrible tragedy, re-captured the mission of community mental health organizations. Community mental health staff have been there, and continue to be there, community by community.

The ongoing services being provided include:

Outreach and Intervention Team: Subcontracted services to The Kent Center, which is located in the service area where the fire occurred. The Kent Center has developed a team of clinical and peer support staff to provide outreach and case finding, particularly for physically injured survivors, first responders, the clergy, and others in the community at large who continue to experience trauma and require short term counseling and/or support, or referral to more extensive services.

Public Education and Public Outreach: DMHRH is developing and coordinating a public outreach campaign to develop a project identity, logo, handouts and continued media coverage designed to reach individuals in need of support, particularly at the time of the first anniversary. This education will work with both the outreach and intervention teams and other important affiliated organizations to participate in community events or reach out to potential victims in area nightclubs, motorcycle clubs, and other venues likely to be frequented by those involved in the fire.

Since September, the behavioral health community has been receiving on site consultation from the Disaster Technical Assistance Center (DTAC), which is funded by SAMHSA. They have been here three (3) times to date, and are next returning in December for the first anniversary preparation.

Training: DMHRH, through sub-contracts with the RI Council of Community Mental Health Organizations and the Drug and Alcohol Treatment Association, has funded a series of training events for Rhode Island’s behavioral health clinicians, Student Assistance Counselors, clergy, first responders, burn care providers and burn victims. Specifically, * in October, the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors came in and did a training for treatment providers; *on December 8th and 9th, the RI Council conducted a training on the impact of trauma on mind and body; *on December 19th, the Council coordinated a training on preparation for the first anniversary; *in the planning stages are trainings on the collaboration of mental health and the clergy in disasters, substance abuse and trauma and an in school Red Cross prevention program.

The National Council is a nonprofit trade association serving the education, advocacy and networking needs of more than 800 community providers of mental health and addiction treatment services.

Since 1970, the National Council has grown to become an important voice in the shaping of federal law, policy, and regulations that govern the behavioral healthcare world.