mental health

Former congressman Patrick Kennedy says the death of comedian Robin Williams shouldn’t overshadow the scores of other Americans who suffer from depression.

Kennedy says his heart goes out to Williams’ family: But yesterday Robin Williams was not the only one to take his life. There were 100 other Americans who successfully took their lives yesterday alone, and today there will be another hundred Americans who will successfully take their lives,” he said.

Another legislative session has wrapped up. Health care reporter Kristin Gourlay joins host Dave Fallon in the studio to talk about how health care fared on Smith Hill.

Here's a transcript of their discussion.

Awareness of what, you ask?

So many conditions and issues I was losing track! It seems a particularly popular month for awareness raising. So, I decided to start a running list of what's happening. Each of these issues touches Rhode Island in some way - some more than others. So I've also done a little digging to find one standout statistic on each issue.

May is...

A state task force is calling for a change in Rhode Island law, saying the state should contribute mental health records to a national background check database called NICS. The firearms safety task force says Rhode Island should provide records only in limited cases in which a person is involuntarily committed by the courts and poses a significant risk of violence.

Records would not be submitted for people determined to pose only a low risk of violence. And the task force says the state should avoid providing any specific information about a patient's diagnosis.

It's been a year since the tragedy in Newtown, CT took so many lives, including that of the gunman, who some believe was battling serious mental illness but may not have gotten all the treatment he needed.

We’ve heard lots, since then, about the need for more mental health resources, and lots about the rollercoaster ride of federal and state funding for those resources. Here’s a round up of some of the year’s most significant developments for mental health patients and advocates:

A joint task force is hearing public testimony this afternoon on Rhode Island's compliance - or lack there-of- with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). That's one of three national databases gun sellers are supposed to check before they sell you a gun, and it's the one that contains records of involuntary commitment, substance abuse, and other mental health data. The other databases contain criminal records. Rhode Island does not submit mental health records to NICS, and it's trying to figure out whether it can and should.

Most health insurance plans must now cover mental health and addiction treatment the same way they cover medical benefits. A trio of federal agencies has issued the final rule on how to implement the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. Former congressman Patrick Kennedy says the act he co-sponsored is only a beginning for better mental health treatment.

The Providence Center has received a $1.7 million dollar federal grant to try to help people with mental health problems avoid the emergency room.  The program could help hospitals, and the state, slash some of the most expensive medical bills.      

Former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy plans to launch a new effort later this year, known as the Kennedy Forum, to advocate for continued improvement on mental health issues.

Flo Jonic / RIPR

Is Rhode Island taking steps to join NICS, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System? Perhaps. The General Assembly has passed legislation authorizing the creation of a 20-member task force to explore the "intersection of behavioral health and firearm safety." Here's what it means.

President Obama praised former Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy for his support of legislation that made mental health coverage mandatory on health insurance policies.

The president’s remarks came Monday at the White House National Conference on Mental Health. In his opening remarks, the president praised several individuals, including Kennedy, who struggled with bipolar disorder and substance abuse during his years representing Rhode Island.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island

The Lifespan hospital system’s recent acquisition of Gateway, a mental health care network, may be a sign of more to come. But it could be too soon to tell what it means for a patient’s pocketbook.

Here's one piece of legislation proposed by Attorney General Peter Kilmartin today as part of a package of gun safety bills:

This week, our neighbors in Connecticut began hearings about mental health care in the state after the Newtown shooting. Lawmakers and a couple of task forces convened by Gov. Dannel Malloy are reviewing the state's mental health services and looking at the kinds of public policy and legal fixes that might make it better. Should we mandate outpatient treatments for the mentally ill? Can we truly assess someone's risk before it's too late? Should gun buyers face a mandatory mental health evaluation?

For once, Rhode Island politicians have a chance at being part of the solution. Even a small change on gun violence would resonate with voters.

As recently as the 2012 election campaigns, the issue of  gun control had fallen off the political shelf. A Republican Party dominated by the states of the sunbelt and the Old Confederacy feverishly defended the rights of the gun lobby. Rueful Democrats, especially those in Red states, bowed cravenly to the gun constituency that was universally cited as the club that doomed Al Gore’s 2000 presidential aspirations.

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