MARCH NEWSLETTER
MENTAL HEALTHCARE FOR ALL: EQUITY REQUIRES ACTION
May is Mental Health Month will kick off on April 29, 2021 and we could not be more excited to showcase the newly created logo for this year's events. Ashley Berman, an intern with Horizon Healthcare Partners, created this year's logo.

This year's theme is "Mental Healthcare For All: Equity Requires Action," to mobilize the mental health community to increase inclusion and diversity in our mental healthcare system.

Stay tuned for a complete listing of events and activities that will be taking place throughout this important month of awareness. There is still time to promote your business or organization with a sponsorship. A sponsorship of any size helps MHARI carry on our work.
LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

The Mental Health Association of Rhode Island (MHARI) continues to fight for mental health consumers and providers at the State House. We have testified on the following legislative bills. 

Behavioral Health Provider Reimbursement Rates (House Bill 5546 and
Senate Bill 591) -These bills mandate incremental increases in the reimbursement rates paid to behavioral health providers over a period of five years. Rhode Island has a shortage of outpatient providers, especially psychiatrists, because of low reimbursement rates from public and private insurers. This bill would help attract new providers to insurance networks, so that patients won’t have to go on long wait lists to see a provider when they need one. The two bills are slightly different. The House’s bill was heard and is not expected to go anywhere. The Senate’s bill was just introduced, and we hope many consumers and providers will send letters to the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services. For more details, see our Action Alert. 

Telemedicine (Senate Bill 004 Sub A and House Bill 6032) - Makes expanded access to telemedicine permanent in Rhode Island, ensuring that reimbursements to behavioral health providers are paid equitably across in-person, video conferencing, and telephone appointments. The bill passed the Senate Floor and was sent to the House Finance Committee. No hearing has been scheduled yet. 

Minimum Wage (Senate Bill 0001 and House Bill 5130) - People who are poor are twice as likely to have common mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression, compared to the rich. This bill will increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour by the year 2025. The Senate bill passed the Senate Floor and was referred to the House Committee on Labor. No hearing has been scheduled yet. The House Committee on Labor heard the House version of the bill, H-5130, but has not voted on it yet. 

Fair Housing Practices (House Bill 5257 and Senate Bill 561) - These bills prohibit landlords from discriminating against lawful sources of income like housing vouchers, alimony and child support. People with disabilities, including serious persistent mental illness, often receive SSI/SSDI benefits and housing vouchers. If passed, this legislation would make it easier for people with disabilities to find affordable housing. The House bill passed the House floor. The Senate bill was heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee, but the Committee has not voted on it yet. 

Health Insurance Reform - Several bills seek to codify into state law the consumer protections guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). If the United States Supreme Court overturns the ACA, Rhode Islanders will lose many of the protections we have come to rely on unless we make them part of our State’s laws. Senate Bill 003 and House Bill 5763 prohibit insurers from charging higher premiums based on sex. Senate Bill 005a and House bill 5441 prevent insurers from discriminating against pre-existing conditions and require coverage for essential health benefits like behavioral health services, preventative and wellness services, and more. House Bill 5651 and Senate Bill 381 prohibit insurers from placing annual and lifetime limits on coverage.
MENTAL HEALTH ASSOCIATION OF RHODE ISLAND CALLS FOR MORATORIUM ON DISPUTED DISCHARGES AT ELEANOR SLATER HOSPITAL

The Mental Health Association of Rhode Island (MHARI) is calling for an immediate moratorium on disputed patient discharges at Eleanor Slater Hospital. In light of recent reports of patients being discharged against the advice of their treating physicians, the consumer advocacy group believes it is necessary to pause and investigate the claims. MHARI is also calling on the Rhode Island General Assembly to establish a joint committee to take comments from the public. Community advocates, patients’ family members, and providers at Eleanor Slater Hospital should be heard.
 
In Rhode Island, the law requires that each patient has the statutory right to “appropriate treatment” and individual treatment plans, which necessarily include discharge planning. Many of the patients who are being forced to discharge from Eleanor Slater Hospital have already failed lower levels of care, like nursing homes. Right now, there is no other place in Rhode Island better equipped to care for them than Eleanor Slater Hospital.

Executive Director Laurie-Marie Pisciotta stated, “We are in this troubling situation because the Raimondo Administration ordered the closing of Eleanor Slater Hospital’s civil commitment facilities to save money during an economic crisis. The Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals was given the impossible task of discharging patients to lower levels of care that currently do not exist in Rhode Island. The State has not invested in the full continuum of behavioral health care, and we are left with a dilapidated, broken, insufficient system. We need an Olmstead Plan to assess, coordinate and fund all levels of care.”
 
Pisciotta further commented, “The McKee Administration has an opportunity to correct this course. MHARI and other mental health advocates are requesting a meeting with Governor McKee to discuss our concerns, as well as policy and process recommendations. We don’t want to be obstructionist; we want to help the State find a solution that meets the needs of patients and the State. There are alternatives we can explore.”
 
Additionally, the Mental Health Association is asking the Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals for more transparency around patient evaluations and a commitment to honor patients’ choice in whether to discharge from the hospital or to return to it if they find that a nursing home does not meet their needs. Patients should not be subject to a stressful appeals process to keep from losing life-sustaining care.
FROM THE DESK OF OUR PARITY PROGRAM MANAGER
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KAREN MALCOLM
Trying to access the insurance coverage and understanding parity laws that regulate mental health and substance use disorder treatment services can be frustrating and confusing at times, even for professionals like me who deal with this stuff everyday. So much of what I do is focused on research and policy change that works to expand health coverage and access to services for all Rhode Islanders. But, sometimes the help people need just can’t wait for lawmakers or regulators to catch up! That’s why I want to make sure everyone knows that RHODE ISLAND has one of the few, FREE, health insurance consumer helplines in the country

Yes, you read that correctly. Rhode Island’s free helpline is hosted by the nonprofit consumer led RI Parent Information Network (RIPIN), a close MHARI ally and partner in the Mental Health Parity Initiative. The helpline is free, multi-lingual, and has saved Rhode Islanders millions of dollars by serving as a guide through the process of resolving insurance company denials, complications with medical bills, eligibility for coverage through HealthSourceRI and Medicaid, and more.

The helpline is there to help any Rhode Islander, even if un-insured, and offers support from start to finish, working with you until your concern is resolved. I almost forgot to mention, ALL of RIPIN services are provided by peer professionals, with expertise and training as well as personal experience navigating systems on behalf of themselves or a loved one.

Don't worry if you didn't know about this helpline before. It’s the story of you don’t know until you need it. That’s why I hope you can help share the news. Screenshot the information below or write down the helpline (401) 270-0101 and spread the word that help is available.
401Gives is Rhode Island's Day of Giving and we could not be more excited to once again be part of this extraordinary event let by the United Way of Rhode Island.

April 1st is a day all Rhode Islanders can come together and support the causes that are most important to them. We need your help in order to make OUR campaign a success.

On April 1st starting at 12AM visit our profile on 401Gives.org (linked below) and make a donation to support our efforts to remove the barriers to mental health treatment. Your donation of any amount will make a difference. THANK YOU!

DAN YORKE INTERVIEWS MHARI'S EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR




Executive Director, Laurie-Marie Pisciotta, was recently interviewed by Dan Yorke for the Dan Yorke Show on News Talk 99.7 and AM 630 WPRO.

During this radio interview, Pisciotta discussed the patient discharges taking place at Eleanor Slater Hospital, the continuum of care and the need for a financial investment in a long-term plan.








GIFTS AFTER YOUR LIFETIME
You can make a significant difference to advance mental health advocacy, education and policy development without affecting your current fiscal circumstances. Gifts made by supporters through their estate plans have provided vital funding in furthering MHARI's mission.

A bequest and other estate gifts, such as life insurance policies and retirement plan accounts, can have a lasting impact. A gift through your estate plan is a way to create a legacy and continue your support after your lifetime. Additionally, you have the flexibility to adjust your gift if your life circumstances change.

With your help, MHARI will continue to remove mental health barriers for all Rhode Islanders. To learn how you can make a legacy gift to Mental Health Association of Rhode Island, please contact Jennifer Raxter in our Development Office.