R.I. Public Health Institute receives $10M federal grant

PROVIDENCE – The Rhode Island Public Health Institute has received $10 million in federal funding for long-term projects focused on providing primary and behavioral health care in underserved communities.

The grant was awarded to the state’s health institute in partnership with the R.I. Department of Health by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which is an agency part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The funds will be specifically focused on providing Rhode Island’s LGBTQ+ and Hispanic/Latinx populations with mental and behavioral health services, said RIPHI CEO Dr. Amy Nunn. More specifically, the funding grant proposal calls for a bidirectional and integrated care partnership among the state’s leading public health leaders.

Nunn emphasized that members of the LGBTQ+ community in Rhode Island and across the country have been facing an ongoing mental health crisis. Nunn also noted there has been an unmet need for behavioral health services tailored specifically to members of the Hispanic/Latinx communities. RIPHI is aiming to use the funds to serve at least 1,000 people every year for the next five years.

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“With this partnership, our goal is to break down silos in the state’s mental and behavioral health system in a way that allows at-risk and underserved individuals to more easily and affordably access the care they need, when they need it,” Nunn said.

Dr. Utpala Bandy, R.I. Department of Health interim director, said this partnership will help the state health department fulfill its priority if promoting health equity and access to quality services.

Under RIPHI’s proposed approach there will be a wide variety of services offered including evidence-based screening, assessments, diagnoses, prevention, treatment and recovery services for mental health, substance use disorders and physical conditions. These services will be offered at two community-based centers: RIPHI’s Open Door Health, which was founded in 2020 as Rhode Island’s only health center focused on LGBTQ+ care and Care New England’s The Providence Center, which is a mental health and addiction treatment center.

Mary Marran, president of Butler Hospital and The Providence Center, expressed gratitude for the additional resources that will help the center serve the state’s underserved communities.

“As a result of such support, daily, we experience the impact we are able to make on the lives of our members, making their quality of life better, and more manageable, and giving them a reason to be proud of themselves and hopeful for their future,” said Marran who is also senior vice president of Behavioral Health Services, Care New England.

To fully integrate each patient’s care, both The Providence Center and Open Door Health have committed to expanding their teams to have co-located providers at each other’s sites. This means Open Door Health’s primary care physicians will serve at The Providence Center and The Providence Center’s behavioral health specialists will service Open Door Health’s patients.