The Kent Center Annual Awards Breakfast

The Kent Center held its Third Annual Awards Breakfast on September 26th at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

David Lauterbach, Kent Center CEO, welcomed over 150 guests. “We’re pleased to be honoring Mayor Scott Avedisian, Rhode Island Housing, WRNI and Representative Eileen Naughton for their contributions to the field of behavioral health,” he stated in his opening remarks. “We’re also here this morning to thank our many supporters–volunteers, donors, partners in government, non-profit partners, business associates and others–who help us to fulfill our mission to improve the quality of life for people with mental health and substance abuse challenges or who work in various ways for a better RI community. We’re glad to have you all here with us this morning in this celebration of the community spirit.”

Susan Bodington, Deputy Director, RI Housing; David Lauterbach, Kent Center CEO; Joe O’Connor, General Manager, WRNI; Representative Eileen Naughton; Mayor Scott Avedisian; Jean Gavigan, Chair, Kent Center Board of Directors; Professor Risdon Slate.

Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Roberts also helped to get things going and brought greetings from the State. David then introduced the keynote speaker, Professor Risdon Slate. “Dr. Slate is one of the country’s leading experts on the interface between the mental health and criminal justice systems. He has come all the way from Florida to speak to us about this important issue.” Dr. Slate discussed the fact that our jails and prisons have become our de facto mental healthcare institutions, the reasons for this shift and some of the ways to correct the injustice. He also shared with the audience his own difficult experience with mental illness and being in jail and his subsequent story of successful recovery.

Dr. Slate is currently Professor of Criminology at Florida Southern College, and previously taught at the University of Maine. Dr. Slate earned his Ph.D. in criminal justice from the Claremont Graduate School in California. His previous work experience includes as an assistant to the warden at a maximum security, death row prison, and as a federal probation officer. He has served as a trainer for law enforcement and corrections officers on successfully interacting with persons with mental illnesses in crisis. Dr. Slate has also testified before the US Congress on the interface between the mental health and criminal justice systems. Dr. Slate served as a gubernatorial appointee on Florida’s mental health and substance abuse commission, and as an elected board member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. He has published several articles on mental health courts and protocols for training probation officers as mental health specialists. Dr. Slate is currently working on a book entitled, Criminalization of Mental Illness: Crisis and Opportunity for the Justice System. He also recently appeared in an ABC documentary entitled Shadow Voices, Finding Hope in Mental Illness.

Kent Center Honorees

Outstanding Leadership Award

Mayor Scott Avedisian

This award is given in recognition of courage and leadership demonstrated in Rhode Island or on a national level that leads to a better quality of life for people who struggle with mental health and substance abuse challenges.

Thanks in great part to the Mayor’s leadership, The Kent Center enjoys a very effective and productive partnership with the City of Warwick. With financial support from the City, we are able to provide mental health counseling services for many uninsured members of our community. We also work very closely with the Warwick School Department, Police Department, and Truancy Court to help to ensure that the behavioral health needs of our friends and neighbors in need are met. Much of this work, we know, is made possible because of the Mayor’s support and guidance.

We are particularly grateful for the City’s commitment of Community Development Block Grant funding to The Kent Center. For several years CDBG funding has assisted us with providing vital mental health and substance abuse counseling services to victims of trauma.

And this year, with the Mayor’s support, we have received CDBG funding to support the Capital Campaign for our new building.  Additionally, we are very pleased that the Mayor is serving on the Honorary Committee for our Campaign.

Community Partner Award

Rhode Island Housing

This award is given to an organization that supports the services and programs of The Kent Center and helps us to advance our mission to improve the quality of life for people who struggle with behavioral health challenges.

In deciding on this year’s Community Partner honoree, we could think of no organization more deserving than Rhode Island Housing. Through a wonderful, long-term collaboration with The Kent Center’s Housing Office, Rhode Island Housing has assisted us in providing quality residential programs, and stable and affordable housing for people with psychological disabilities.  Support from RI Housing assisted us with the development of our supervised apartment program for adults with severe and persistent mental illnesses; the creation of our Home Ownership Program, which will give families who face both financial and behavioral health challenges the chance to own their own homes; and most recently with the renovation of one of our homes for people with disabilities.

One of our firm beliefs at The Kent Center is that a lack of affordable, stable housing becomes a barrier to treatment and recovery for individuals and families who struggle with mental illness. We are most grateful to Rhode Island Housing for its assistance in breaking down this barrier.

Susan Bodington, Deputy Director of Rhode Island Housing, accepted the award.

Media Champion Award

WRNI, Rhode Island’s NPR Newsstation

This award is given to a media outlet that helps to raise public awareness about mental health and substance abuse issues.

We are continuously impressed with the enlightened, in depth and thoughtful way in which WRNI covers important news topics that affect the health and quality of life of Rhode Islanders.  We were particularly impressed earlier this year with their series, Doing Life, On the Installment Plan, by reporter Nancy Cook, and specifically the segments on mental illness and substance abuse. Ms. Cook’s reporting conveys very well, we believe, that it is a lack of funding for community based mental health and substance abuse treatment services that swells the prison population and ignores serious health needs of vulnerable people. Presenting this award to WRNI this year is also very timely, as our state’s budget crunch has forced us to look at how best to use precious resourcestreatment or incarceration. This is certainly a topic about which we strive to raise awareness and we are delighted by coverage such as theirs that assists us in this endeavor.

We believe WRNI to be a worthy recipient of this award for other stories they aired as well. We are grateful that they included children’s psychiatric health and the need for better access to psychiatric care in their series, Children’s Health in Rhode Island, which aired last fall. We were also pleased by their handling of the Carpio insanity defense story and was honored that they called upon David to do an interview with Bob Seay. But more importantly we were impressed by the fact that they were sensitive to the impact that the story could have on the stigma associated with mental illness.

Joe O’Connor, General Manager of WRNI, accepted the award.

Eleanor Briggs Award

Representative Eileen Naughton

This award is named in honor of Eleanor Briggs, a longstanding Kent Center volunteer who passed away last year, who shared our mission of improving the quality of life in our community. It’s given to an individual who upholds this idea.

Eileen Naughton has indeed worked to improve the quality of life in our communities through her fifteen years of service in the RI House of Representatives. She cares passionately about healthcare, the environment and of course improving the quality of life for people with disabilities.

Here are just a few of the reasons we believe Representative Naughton most worthy to receive this award:

Representative Naughton introduced a measure to continue work of the state’s Olmstead Decision Task Force, which among other things is charged with improving the balance of spending between community-based and facility-based care and assisting in transitioning people from facilities to the community

She helped to establish a crisis intervention service for adult with disabilities who are victims of domestic violence.

She hosts the annual Youth Leadership Forum for Students with Disabilities.

She spearheaded a workgroup that transformed the state’s Katie Beckett eligibility process making it more transparent for parents.

Rep. Naughton has also demonstrated her support of The Kent Center by agreeing to serve on the Honorary Committee for our Capital Campaign.