NAMI Wellness Weekend to focus on kids

Thu, 05/09/2019 - 6:00pm

Members of the island’s local mental health task force — NAMI-BI — are putting the final touches on their third annual conference in observance of May as Mental Health Month. With the first two events centering respectively on the opioid crisis and depression, the focus this year is on the well-being of youngsters.

Scheduled for the weekend of May 17 and May 18, the title of the conference is “Children and Teens: Won’t They Just Grow Out of it?”

The subcommittee engaged in conference planning has been chaired by Elspeth Crawford, and includes Island Free Library Director Kristin Baumann and NAMI member Socha Cohen. In developing plans for this year’s event, the group has reached out to other island constituencies — the Library, the Medical Center, the Block Island School and the Wellness Coalition, all of which are actively involved.

The lead-off event will take place on Friday evening, May 17, with a TED Talk by Charisse Nixon, Associate Professor of Psychology, Penn State University. Her talk is entitled “What Adolescents Need to Thrive.” Members of the island community will respond to issues raised and engage the audience in discussion.

A full day of talks meant to further promote community dialogue is scheduled for Sat., May 18. Launching the conversation, Dr. Jeffrey Hunt will address “ Hot Topics in Children’s Mental Health.” Dr. Hunt is Professor and Deputy Division Director in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

He is the Program Director for the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship and the Combined Program in Pediatrics, Psychiatry, and Child Psychiatry (Triple Board) residency. He is also Director of Inpatient and Intensive Services at Bradley Hospital. Dr. Hunt has been co-investigator on several National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) funded studies relating to mood disorders including the Course and Outcome of Bipolar Youth study (COBY) over the last 15 years.

Dr. Hunt is also engaged with NAMI-BI and the Medical Center to launch a telemedicine program to provide behavioral health care for children on the island. NAMI-BI has been running a similar program for adults for many years.

Following Dr. Hunt will be Pamela Hoffman, MD, who will speak on “Managing Risk in Vulnerable Youth: Perspectives from the Emergency Department.” Dr. Hoffman is an Assistant Professor at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University and the Assistant Director at Hasbro Psychiatric Emergency Services at Hasbro Children's Hospital. She helps lead a multidisciplinary team evaluating children and adolescents in crisis in the emergency room setting. Dr. Hoffman also chairs the Telehealth Steering Committee and is dedicated to bringing telemedicine to the state to enhance patient access to care.

The afternoon speaker will be Liz Jorgensen, addressing “Understanding and Positive Parenting of the Teenaged Brain.” Jorgensen has 30 year’s experience with adolescent and adult psychotherapy and counseling. She is a nationally recognized expert in counseling, working extensively with youngsters and parents.

Jorgensen was the coordinator of Adolescent Substance Abuse Services at Danbury Hospital where she created and ran a program of intensive outpatient services during her 18 years there. Since 2000, Jorgensen has been the owner and director of Insight Counseling in Ridgefield, Conn. through which — with seven colleagues — she provides a full spectrum of outpatient counseling programs, including intensive outpatient services for adolescents and young adults. Liz is also a consultant to a number of adolescent treatment and residential and outpatient centers in Connecticut and California.

The recipient of many awards, Jorgensen has been a consultant to many independent and public schools and treatment agencies, including a popular speaker on parenting of pre-teens and teenagers at the Block Island School. She has written a curriculum for middle and high school students called, “This Is Your Teenage Brain on Drugs” and has presented it personally to many schools each year. 

The closing feature of the day’s events is a Community Round Table, a group meeting to review the issues raised during the day — in which participants and audience are encouraged to respond to and discuss community questions and concerns for the mental health of our children and families.

The moderator of the Round Table will be Marguerite Donnelly and the panel will include keynote speaker Jeff Hunt, MD, Clinical Psychologist Peter Oppenheimer, Telemedicine Case Manager Tracy Fredericks, Associate Director of BIHS Wellness Clinic Alison Warfel and Chief of Police Vincent Carlone.

Just prior to the roundtable, the NAMI-BI group will make a presentation of the Ross Campbell Award, given to a member of the community who has made a significant difference to the quality of island life.

As they work to bring their programs together, conference planners and NAMI-BI board members express great enthusiasm about their third annual conference and hope that island residents will join them in the weekend’s activities. All of these will take place at the Island Free Library.

Participants are invited to drop in for just some of the programs or to attend for the entire day.