Mental health month kick-off at State House May 1

PROVIDENCE – This year’s kick-off for mental health month in May, sponsored by the Mental Health Association of Rhode Island, will focus on mental health and substance-abuse parity among insurance plans May 1 at the Governor’s State Room at the State House.

The event begins at noon, and will be hosted by Barbara Morse Silva, health reporter and anchor for WJAR-TV NBC 10.

Gov. Gina M. Raimondo, honorary chair of the event, as well as other state officials will comment on the state’s efforts to ensure compliance with Rhode Island’s Parity Law and the landmark, federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008.

“We want to raise awareness about parity for both mental health and substance-use disorders. We want all Rhode Islanders to understand that when they have insurance coverage for mental illness or substance-use disorder, that coverage should be the same as coverage for all other types of illnesses,” said Ruth Feder, executive director of the MHARI.

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Feder said it’s also important for people living with mental health and/or substance-use disorders to understand they are entitled to treatment for a medical-surgical condition free from the stigma often associated with mental illness and substance use.

Paul Cavanagh will tell the story behind the establishment of the Thomas G. Cavanagh Memorial Fund, in his brother’s memory. The fund was created by Cavanagh’s family and friends in 2011, months after the 29-year-old Toll Gate High School and Harvard University ice hockey star and NHL player took his own life three years after the onset of schizophrenia. The mission of the fund is to aid those struggling with mental illness, particularly schizophrenia, through education, research and treatment programs.

Prior to the ceremony, the public is invited to visit informational mental health and substance-use resource tables and network with advocates.

The event will conclude with the awarding of the Legislator of the Year award. A full calendar of May Mental Health Month events has been embedded below:

Rob Borkowski is a PBN staff writer. Email him at