PROVIDENCE, RI- Governor Gina M. Raimondo and First Gentleman Andy Moffit were joined by the Rhode Island Broadcasters this morning to celebrate the launch of an unprecedented mental health awareness campaign and broadcast special. For the first time, reporters from ABC-6, NBC-10 and WPRI-12 have worked together to tell the stories of everyday Rhode Islanders who are dealing with mental health or substance use issues but have found help and hope through statewide initiatives.
"Here in Rhode Island, we're declaring loud and clear that it's okay not to be okay," said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. "I'm proud to be Governor of a state where people come together to combat stigma and help our neighbors who may be struggling. I want to especially thank the Rhode Island Broadcasters for their partnership and support."
Local television and radio stations will air a locally produced, commercial-free half-hour special simultaneously and in-kind on Saturday, December 14 at 7:30 p.m. The conversation, led by Capitol TV's Margie O'Brien, will continue on Rhode Island PBS from 8 to 8:30 p.m. The two specials and social media content produced by Sociable! will provide resources for viewers and listeners, their loved ones and those caring for people with mental health and substance use issues. Following the broadcast special, the state will continue the dialogue with a long-term public awareness campaign through PSAs, social media and video content.
"It's great to see policymakers focus on things like parity and increasing funding for treatment, but stigma still prevents far too many Rhode Islanders from seeking help for mental and behavioral health challenges," said First Gentleman Andy Moffit. "That's why it's critical that we start an open dialogue about these issues. I hope Rhode Islanders know that help and hope are out there."
Mental health and substance use challenges do not discriminate. They affect Rhode Islanders of every age, race, socioeconomic status and zip code. While the special will provide information about resources that anyone in the state can utilize, it will highlight specific challenges of first responders, construction workers and young people in the state.
"We at Sociable! are honored to be the provider of creative content and social media resources for this very timely and critically important initiative. Sociable takes pride in our work on socially responsible programs such as "It's OK Not To Be OK" and playing a role in providing hope for recovery is an honor," said John Methia, Executive Producer/President Sociable!
The broadcast special highlights the work of BHDDH, The RI Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities & Hospitals. BHDDH licenses 33 behavioral healthcare treatment providers in 148 locations throughout the state.
"Rhode Islanders deserve the opportunity to realize the best possible mental health and well-being within a healthy community," said BHDDH Director Rebecca Boss. "By saying 'It's OK not to be OK,' we become more open and honest about mental illness and substance misuse and can start the journey to assist those in need to get help."
Throughout the broadcast special and campaign, Rhode Islanders struggling with mental or behavioral health challenges will be encouraged to turn to BH Link. BH Link is a behavioral health facility designed to provide immediate assistance to a person in crisis by providing innovative crisis intervention services, and connecting people to ongoing treatment and care. Services are provided by a professional team of registered nurses, counselors, psychiatrists, phone screeners, and peer specialists. Clinicians listen to clients' concerns and take the necessary steps to get people through their crisis, and help make connections to longer term services if needed.
"It is encouraging that behavioral health issues are starting to be normalized in our society and that those struggling with mental health and/or substance use issues are starting to talk about their struggles," said Jim Ryczek, CEO of Horizon Healthcare Partners. "Only by building a culture that makes it clear that it is 'ok not to be ok' do we create that safe space for Rhode Islanders to feel comfortable reaching out for the help and support they deserve."
BH Link Hotline's (414-LINK; 414-5465) is a one-stop, statewide 24/7 call-in center that connects people to appropriate care and resources, when they or someone they care about is experiencing a behavioral healthcare crisis. Their triage center, located in East Providence, is a 24/7 community-based walk-in/drop-off facility where clinicians connect people to immediate, stabilizing emergency behavioral health services, and long-term care and recovery supports.
Former patient Danielle Hebert says BH Link saved her life.
"It is important to strip down the stigma about mental health so people in our community can get the help and support they need in able to live their best lives," said Hebert. "There are so many great resources now available in our state for those Rhode Islanders, like me, who are struggling with mental health or substance use issues. We need to create a community where individuals can feel comfortable reaching out for help. And we always need to remember, it's ok to not be ok."
"Broadcasters in Rhode Island are proud to present this joint effort. We need to spotlight the seriousness of a problem that's giving pain to so many people and their families. We hope by using our reach we will raise awareness about mental illness and substance use and help change things for the better," said RI Broadcasters Association Chairman Vic Vetters, Vice President and General Manager of NBC10.
"Rhode Island Broadcasters Association is comprised of radio and television stations within Rhode Island that work together in unity on projects and initiatives such as this to offer educational awareness to make informed decisions to better their lives and those who are in need. The Association is pleased to give a voice to this most important issue," said RIBA President Lori Needham, who has coordinated the effort with Sociable! and the State of Rhode Island.
Promotions have started running on local television and radio stations along with social media posts including state agency feeds. The hashtag #itsokri is being used for the special and will be used on social media platforms throughout the campaign.