EOHHS to launch ‘Let’s Talk About Mental Health’ series

WARWICKThe R.I. Executive Office of Health and Human Services and partners today will kick off “Let’s Talk About Mental Health,” a series of public conversations across the state to raise awareness about mental health, addiction and available treatment.

The EOHHS invites Rhode Islanders to share personal thoughts, stories, experiences and ideas at events held throughout the state to raise awareness about mental health, addiction and available treatment. The first will be led by R.I. Secretary of Health and Human Services Eric J. Beane today at 6 p.m. at The Kent Center, 2756 Post Road, Warwick. Additional speakers at the event include Tom Coderre, senior adviser to the governor; Rebecca Boss, director of the R.I. Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals; R.I. Department of Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott; and Kasim Yarn, director of the R.I. Office of Veterans Affairs.

Additional events in the series have yet to be announced.

In May, Gov. Gina M. Raimondo signed Executive Order 18-03, reaffirming and expanding Rhode Island’s commitment to people with mental illness and substance use disorders. The executive order calls for a series of public discussions designed to help inspire public dialogue about Rhode Islanders’ mental health experiences and perspectives, and to promote understanding and awareness about treatment.

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South County Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds – one of Rhode Island’s 10 Health Equity Zones – recently received $2 million from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for the Zero Suicide in Washington County program providing depression care to eliminate suicides in the region.

From 2010-14 there were a total of 74 suicides in Washington County, according to the Washington County Coalition for Children. According to RIDOH, Washington County’s suicide rate of 10.8 suicides per 100,000 people is the highest in the state. Rhode Island itself saw 11.09 suicides per 100,000 in 2016, compared with the national rate that year, 13.42 per 100,000.

State and advocacy groups are also continuing several initiatives aimed at curbing the local effects of the national opioid epidemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists Rhode Island with the ninth-highest rate of deaths from opioid overdose in the country.

According to the R.I. Department of Health, hospitals had been reporting about 29 overdoses a week in 2018, including fatal and nonfatal incidents up until May. From May 21-27, there were 44 overdoses in Rhode Island. There were 31 deaths from overdoses in May, the last month RIDOH has reported.

Rob Borkowski is a PBN staff writer. Email him at Borkowski@PBN.com.