Week One with "Buddha"

June 18, 2013

Cherise Morris ’16 is an Impact Providence intern this summer working at the RI Dept. of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH).

My first week and a half at the BHDDH - called "Buddha" by many - got off to a busy start.

Within my first few minutes at the office, I was ushered into a weekly legislative meeting with my advisor, BHDDH Public Relations Director and Legislative Liaison, Deborah Varga. There, Deb and I met with representatives from the other RI state departments of health and healthcare, including the departments of Health and Children and Families, to discuss each department's responses to the last few rounds of General Assembly discussions and hearings.

There are currently two bills up for discussion that would affect BHDDH. During this meeting I learned a lot about the department's current Employment First and Housing First policy initiatives that seek to fully integrate members of society with developmental and behavioral health disabilities into their communities by providing them with meaningful, living wage employment opportunities. I was also acquainted with materials from SAMSA and several of the department's recent grant proposals, including its innovative SBIRT initiative, a behavioral health early-identification and prevention program. At the beginning of the month, President Obama hosted a Nation Conference on Mental Health and many of the themes addressed during that conference, including ensuring that those in need are not only encouraged to seek help but also have the access to quality care, are cornerstones of BHDDH's guiding principles.

My main project for the summer will be helping with the planning and publicity of this year's Rally4Recovery; the Providence rally is part of an annual national network of rallies throughout September, National Recovery Month, that symbolize the support and unity within the community of those recovering from substance use issues, and their families, friends and allies. This year's Providence rally was designated as the national hub event and will take place on September 21st. BHDDH director Craig Stenning will serve as the event's emcee; and former Senator Patrick Kennedy will deliver the keynote address as this year's Rally4Recovery Grand Marshall. The Providence rally will be live streamed nationally. There is an expected turnout of upwards of 10,000 people. The summer's first planning meeting for the rally will be held at the BHDDH administrative office from 3:30-5:00 this Thursday, June 20th. These meetings are free and open to the public. To sign up to volunteer at this year's festivities go to: http://rally4recovery.com/.