Cranston, Warwick nonprofits receive grants to help residents cope with stress of COVID-19

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Nonprofits from Cranston and Warwick are among the organizations that will share nearly $1.7 million in grants from the COVID-19 Behavioral Health Fund at the Rhode Island Foundation. The grants come as they report a surge in stress due to the crisis.

“The health and economic effects of the pandemic are creating significant behavioral health challenges for too many in our community,” said Neil D. Steinberg, president and CEO of the Foundation. “We hope this funding gives our nonprofit partners the resources to help address the increases in depression, isolation, suicide and substance abuse that we are seeing during these challenging times.”

AccessPoint RI in Cranston and Thrive Behavioral Health and West Bay RI in Warwick are among the 31 organizations that received funding.

Thrive Behavioral Health will use its grant to expand its telehealth services for individuals struggling with increased mental health symptoms and substance use in response to the pandemic. The funding will enable Thrive to purchase laptops and headsets so its staff can increase teletherapy capacity.

“In this unprecedented time of uncertainty, Rhode Islanders and their families are experiencing stress and, in some cases, increased mental health symptoms, including anxiety and depression,” said Daniel Kubas-Meyer, Thrive’s president and CEO. “Reach out for help. Teletherapy has proven to be a very effective method for individuals to gain immediate access to vital tools that could help them improve their quality of life."

West Bay RI in Warwick will purchase sensory tools that promote emotional support, socialization, physical activity and sensory stimulation. The goal is to stabilize the emotional and behavioral health of people struggling to cope with the stress of the pandemic.

“We are most fortunate to be able to invest in sensory items and equipment for people that will support their overall wellness at a time that is fraught with anxiety and exasperated by limited access to more varied activities due to the COVID pandemic," said Gloria Quinn, West Bay’s executive director.

The organization expects the grant will enable it to provide therapeutic sensory and physical activities to 17 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including autism, along with complex psychiatric and behavioral disorders. The therapies will be home-based.

“As an example, a gentleman who struggles every day to cope with generalized anxiety as well as the many changes and limitations brought on by COVID, will benefit through the purchase of a wall mounted, water display to be featured in the main living area of his home. The water wall is a relaxing instrument, which will allow him to join his peers and staff in a common space to socialize and engage at a comfortable level,” said Quinn.

AccessPoint will use its grant to support digitally enabled group and individual sessions, and on-call conferencing telehealth services. The organization expects to serve approximately 60 people with the grant, including children with complex medical needs and adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities, and their families.

“Our clients are coping with increased behavioral health needs due to COVID-19. During the pandemic, we’ve had to completely change the way we think about how people engage for social, emotional and medical connections. We are used to in-person, one-to-one connections – seeing and being with others. COVID-19 changed all of that,” said Thomas Kane, AccessPoint’s president and CEO.

“What didn’t change, and, in fact, increased, is the need for individuals to maintain their physical and mental well-being during this time. Social isolation, disruption of familiar routines, fear of becoming infected with the virus and the loss of contacts are all causing enormous stress on the individuals, their caregivers and family members. Telehealth will allow us to provide safe support in real time with familiar and trusted providers,” he said.

This is the second round of grants from the COVID-19 Behavioral Health Fund at the Foundation, established by the state Office of the Health Commissioner (OHIC) with more than $5 million in funding from Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island, Tufts Health Plan and UnitedHealthCare. The fund now has distributed more than $5.3 million in funding since May.

“It is critical that we use this funding from our health insurers to meet some of the elevated pressures and challenges that this pandemic has placed upon on our behavioral health care providers and the individuals and families that need these vital health care services,” said state Health Commissioner Marie Ganim.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. Working with generous and visionary donors, the Foundation raised $47 million and awarded a record $56 million in grants to organizations addressing the state’s most pressing issues and needs of diverse communities in 2019. Through leadership, fundraising and grant-making activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential. For more information, visit rifoundation.org.

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