EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — It's all in the name: BH Link. BH stands for behavioral health, but you won't see that written out on the signs.
With the stigma still surrounding mental health and substance use disorders, that full name could scare those in need away rather than invite them in. BH Link is indeed a link. Rhode Island's first-of-its-kind triage and call center for mental health and substance use disorders is the first real step in bringing together mental health resources for those in need.
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Eyewitness News got a tour of the East Providence facility during its open house on Friday. It will open to medical professionals and those experiencing a behavioral health emergency on Wednesday, Nov. 14.
Inside, there are pictures invoking tranquil thoughts, soft lighting, and rooms with recliners for people to sit while they wait for help. The center serves as a jumping-off point, guiding people to the next step in their road to recovery, stability, or their journey through rehabilitation.
It will also bring people dealing with mental health crises to the right location. About 15 percent of patients who go to hospitals' emergency departments are seeking help for mental health problems, according to Jim Ryczek, CEO of Horizon Health Partners, which will operate BH Link.
Now, they can go to this new facility, as long as they aren't also experiencing medical problems such as an overdose.
Officials said BH Link will have a team of registered nurses, counselors, psychiatrists, phone screeners and phone specialists on hand to provide 24/7 assistance to individuals and their families. Through federal block grant money to the tune of $1.35 million and $650,000 in state tax money as part of the current budget, the center created 50 new jobs.
Patients will also meet with peers like Keri Giacomini, who's experienced mental health concerns in her past.
"Hopefully instill hope into their lives, showing them that I was once like that but after I received help, I am able to live the life I want," she said Friday.
“This opening is a critical step in our efforts to better support Rhode Islanders living with mental and behavioral health issues,” Gov. Gina Raimondo said in a statement. “Often, when people need help, they need it right away. But for too long, that hasn't been possible. This hotline and triage center will begin to bridge that gap. Rhode Islanders should know that recovery is possible, and that it’s OK to seek help.”
BH Link's opening stems from an executive order signed by Raimondo in May that said state agencies would increase access to mental health and substance abuse treatments, ensure parity between physical and mental health and encourage individuals to seek out treatment.