NAMI to focus on heroin and opioid use

Fri, 10/14/2016 - 9:45am
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At their meeting on Sept. 23, members of the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness discussed the use of heroin and other opioids on Block Island

NAMI caseworker Tracy Fredericks acknowledged that the use of heroin and opioids on Block Island was “more prevalent than what people realize.” Local usage correlates with what many consider to be a national heroin epidemic.

The group has decided to focus on the opioid/heroin issue by sponsoring a talk, yet to be scheduled, on the subject. There was some discussion about asking a prominent addiction psychiatrist from Harvard to give the lecture.

The group also discussed whether or not NAMI-BI should sponsor a panel discussion with national experts and members of the local community.

NAMI Chair Steve Hollaway suggested that members read an article published in The Washington Post entitled “Opioid Crisis in Rural Areas may be Tracked through Telemedicine.”

Another talk that the task force hoped to sponsor was one on the integration of general and behavioral medicine, for which members were in the midst of identifying speakers.

Michael Brownstein said he’d spoken with the family of Ross Campbell, whose death was associated with mental health issues. The family wanted to offer a small prize to an island resident who had contributed to improving the mental health of the community. 

After discussion, the group approved a motion to establish the Ross Campbell Prize, with individuals of all ages eligible — children and youth, as well as adults. The first award will be granted during spring 2017.

The group also discussed possible changes in health coverage for telemedicine services.

On June 28, 2016 Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo signed the Telemedicine Coverage Act (HB 7160B) making this state the 31st to enact telemedicine commercial coverage into law. This action reflected significant progress for a state that had run well behind those states providing tele-health coverage.

The new law (R.I. Gen. Laws §27-81-3 (12), which doesn’t go into effect until Jan. 1, 2018, requires commercial health insurers in the state to cover treatment provided via telemedicine just as they cover in-person services.

State statutes define telemedicine as follows:

"Telemedicine means the delivery of clinical health care services by means of real time two-way electronic audiovisual communications, including the application of secure video conferencing or store-and-forward technology to provide or support health care delivery, which facilitate the assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and care management of a patient’s health care while such patient is at an originating site and the health care provider is at a distant site, consistent with applicable federal laws and regulations."

Telemedicine does not include telephone conversations or emails or fax transmissions between the health care professional and patient. 

The passage of this law is significant for the local chapter of NAMI, which has been offering islanders telemedicine services in behavioral health for the last four years.

Currently, the local telemedicine program, which has recently moved its site from the Harbor Church to the Medical Center, is focused on services for adults. However, the group is concerned about expanding these to include children. 

The island telemedicine program was developed and is run by a team of Brown University and Butler Hospital physicians. 

In her report to the group, Fredericks explained that Brown University had a clinical training program geared to providing behavioral health services to children. One of its sites is the Emma P. Bradley Hospital in East Providence, where there are trainees analogous to residents at Butler Hospital.

Bradley manages programs for children with many kinds of special needs within a number of the state’s school systems. The group agreed to work with Bradley through the Butler connection.