Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Accessing mental health care can be tough for kids in Rhode Island. There’s a shortage of practitioners and programs and a growing need for care. This week on The Pulse, we explore how schools and communities are bridging some of the gaps, bringing mental health services right into the school building.

Brown University

Researchers from Brown University have found that even low levels of lead in children’s blood can lower future test scores. It’s one of the first studies to isolate lead as a cause, and not just a factor, in student achievement.

Jake Bissaro / The Providence Center

Mental health services for children can be difficult to access in Rhode Island. But a new public-private partnership is trying to make those services easier to access at some Providence public schools.


Behavioral health clinicians from the nonprofit Providence Center will be on hand at two elementary schools and four middle schools in Providence. Clinicians from a company called Behavioral Health Services, Inc. will also provide clinical and technical support to make the program work.

Rhode Island is 7th in the nation for children’s healthcare coverage. That’s according to 2014 numbers from the U.S. Census.  It’s a big jump from last year, when Rhode Island was 16th.

Today, nearly 97 percent of Rhode Island children have health insurance, up from about 94 percent in 2013. Elizabeth Burke-Bryant of the advocacy non-profit Rhode Island Kid’s Count said the leap can be partly attributed to a major PR push to get people insured, under Obamacare.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Governor Gina Raimondo has called for a complete overhaul of the state’s child welfare agency. A new audit has found DCYF failed to follow basic accounting and purchasing practices. With more about the problems and the proposed fixes, Rhode Island Public Radio’s Kristin Gourlay joins news director Elisabeth Harrison in the studio.

Steven Depolo / Creative Commons license

Exposure to a trio of common chemicals can affect developing babies’ brains. But it’s unclear what role those chemicals play as kids get older. One Brown University researcher aims to find out.

Rhode Island General Assembly

  Citing data that shows an increase in children living in poverty, Gov. Gina Raimondo has reinstated the Children’s Cabinet. The group has not met for close to a decade. It’s charged with coordinating services for children across state agencies. One of the founders of the Children’s Cabinet, former Cranston senator Thomas Izzo, says reconvening the group sends a message that child welfare matters.

“If you don’t have forceful proponents and advocates within the legislature or policymakers," said Izzo, "kids’ issues get lost very quickly.”

Rhode Island’s ranking for child well-being has dropped from last year, according to a new report from the child advocacy group Kids Count. 

45 children in the care of Rhode Island’s child welfare agency are currently listed as missing. Rhode Island Public Radio learned about the number missing after a 14-year-old girl in the agency's care was found in New Jersey with an alleged sex trafficker. The Department of Children, Youth, and Family says she was lured away from a group home. Spokesman Denis Riel says the agency takes its responsibility for children seriously.

General Mills

School is nearly out for the summer. And that means thousands of children who rely on free or reduced price school meals are at risk of going hungry. That's why there's a USDA-funded summer meals program. In Rhode Island, the program serves an average of 300,000 meals each summer.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Hundreds of children are awaiting adoption in Rhode Island. Now some of their portraits are on display at an exhibit in Providence City Hall.

16 portraits of smiling Rhode Island children between the ages of eight and 19 are hanging now in the city’s tax collection office. It’s not exactly what you’d expect to find when you go to pay your bill.  But Adoption Rhode Island head Darlene Allen says she hopes the portraits will raise awareness about the need for more adoptive families.

A technicality in the law has meant that children’s psychiatric hospitals could not compete for graduate medical education funding from the federal government. Other kinds of teaching hospitals, including general children's hospitals, have been able to apply for federal funding to train residents and fellows. But after years of trying, Rhode Island’s Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed have gotten the law changed.

Bradley Hospital’s academic director Dr. Greg Fritz says without the funding, the hospital might have to make cuts to its resident training program.

Executive Office of Health and Human Services

Since about 2007, the percent of all hospitalizations of kids 18 and under for a mental health reason has nearly doubled. According to state public health data, there have been a steady number of total hospitalizations - about 20,000 - for kids statewide. In 2002, the percent admitted for a mental disorder was between six and eight percent for kids with private insurance or Medicaid, and quite low for uninsured kids. Today it's between 10 and 12 percent across the board.

New numbers out of Rhode Island Kids Count show the number of children living in poverty has grown nearly five percent since the start of the Great Recession.  Kids Count RI executive director Elizabeth Burke-Bryant sat down with Rhode Island Public Radio's Elisabeth Harrison to go over the numbers.

The latest report on child poverty in Rhode Island found in 2013 44,923 children under the age of 18 lived below the federal poverty threshold. That’s 21.5%, and higher than the rate of 15.5% in 2008.

Researchers with the Hasbro Children’s Hospital Pediatric Refugee Health Program in Providence have found that the longer child refugees stay in the U.S., the greater the chance they'll become overweight or obese.