PROVIDENCE, RI - Governor Gina Raimondo today signed an executive order reaffirming and expanding Rhode Island's commitment to people with mental health and substance use disorders while addressing access to timely and needed care. Former Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy and members of the Governor's Cabinet joined Governor Raimondo as she signed the executive order at the Thundermist Health Center in Woonsocket.
"Nearly one-quarter of adults in Rhode Island have a mental health diagnosis. We need to get to a place where we can talk about mental health openly and often," said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. "We need to eliminate anything that is standing in the way of people getting help. Mental health care is a right, and we have more work to do to ensure that all Rhode Islanders have the care they need."
"I am so thrilled to return to Rhode Island and join Governor Raimondo at the signing of this monumental executive order that demonstrates Rhode Island's leadership on mental health parity," said former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy. "I applaud the Governor's efforts to continue to improve the lives of all Rhode Islanders; she has set the foundation to be a national leader."
The Governor's executive order revolves around the principle that Rhode Islanders who need mental health care shouldn't be blocked from getting it because care is too expensive, because they can't find a provider to see them, or because their insurers are requiring excessive and unnecessary paperwork. Specifically, the order:
Directs state agencies to be even more vigilant in reviewing how insurance companies are treating mental and behavioral health needs to ensure access to care is fair and timely
Calls for developing an action plan by November 2018 to guide improvements to adult and pediatric behavioral and mental health care systems
Directs agencies to work on a new statewide campaign to improve public attitudes around mental illness and addiction.
"As Rhode Island grapples with an opioid addiction epidemic, it is crucial that insurance companies recognize the importance of mental and behavioral health to overall health," said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a co-author of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, the principal law guiding the federal government's response to the opioid epidemic. "I commend Governor Raimondo for taking action today, and former Congressman Kennedy for leading the way on this important issue nationally."
"The President and Republicans in Congress have consistently tried to make it harder for Americans to access high-quality affordable mental health care. Their attacks on the Affordable Care Act and proposed cuts to Medicare and Medicaid would strip Rhode Islanders of their ability to access this essential care," said Congressman David Cicilline. "Governor Raimondo, on the other hand, is taking concrete action to improve quality and expand access for Rhode Islanders. I applaud the Governor's leadership, and I'll continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to ensure all American have access to this essential health care."
"I'm honored that Governor Raimondo chose to sign this Executive Order here in Woonsocket," said Mayor Baldelli-Hunt. "It's crucial that Rhode Islanders with mental health and substance use disorders get the services and support they need. It's encouraging to see so many Rhode Islanders coming together at the local and state levels."
"I'm proud of Rhode Island for expanding access to health care and of our leadership in combatting the opioid epidemic," said Health and Human Services Secretary Eric J. Beane. "However, many Rhode Islanders remain priced out of vital mental and behavioral health services. Through this executive order, we will work together to ensure people receive the care they need, when they need it."
"Behavioral health has long been considered a lesser important aspect of health care in the United States, with a separate system of care and higher barriers to treatment as compared with general medical care," said Health Insurance Commissioner Marie Ganim. "Even in that environment, our state has had a proud history of leaders advocating for individuals with behavioral health disorders."
"Mental Health treatment is effective and recovery is possible," said Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals Director Becky Boss. "We look forward to working together with our colleagues across state government to reduce the negative perception of mental illness and address barriers to treatment, the need for education on mental illness, and access to services."
Full text of Governor Raimondo's executive order is linked below.