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Bridging the Gaps Annual Conference

NAMI Rhode Island’s Bridging the Gaps Annual Conference brings together heroes and allies in the mental health community. Discuss the issues side by side with consumers, family members, mental health professionals, advocates, legislators, volunteers and friends.

Registration is Now OpenVisit our Eventbrite event page to reserve your spot.

When: Wednesday, May 23, 8 am – 5 pm

Where: Providence College, Slavin Center. GPS directions: 251 Huxley Ave, Providence, RI 02908. Accessible by RIPTA Bus 55.

This full-day conference features keynote presentations and more than a dozen workshops with panelists and presenters from across Rhode Island’s mental health community. The theme is “Across the Generations.”

Schedule of Events

8 to 9 am – Registration
8 to 9 am – Breakfast & Networking
9 to 9:20 am – Keynote by Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use, SAMHSA
9:20 to 10 am – Legislative Forum with Tom Coderre, ‎Senior Advisor, Office of Governor Gina M. Raimondo
10 to 10:10 am – Youth Speaker Address by Gabriella “Gabby” Pascale
10:25 to 11:55 am – Workshop Session I

An Introduction to College Unbound

Adam Bush, Vice President of Academic Affairs, Provost, College Unbound

College Unbound’s mission is to reinvent higher education for underrepresented returning adult learners, using a model that is individualized, interest-based, project-driven, workplace-enhanced, cohort-supported, flexible, supportive, and affordable. Through rigorous and engaged scholarship, College Unbound integrates the students’ own purposes for learning with the needs of their workplaces and communities, improving the lives of the students and the lives of those they touch. Learn how College Unbound, with its unique, fully supportive student-centered model, ensures that students get in, stay in, and move forward.

Eradicating Stigma of Mental Illness Across the Generations

Elissa Emerson, PhD., PMHCNS-BC, Assistant Professor of Nursing, Rhode Island College; Karen Hetzel, PhD., PMHCNS-BC, Associate Professor of Nursing and Undergraduate Program Director, Rhode Island College; Kristen Kichefski, MSN, MBA, RN-BC, Nursing Professional Development Specialist, McLean Hospital, and Adjunct Faculty, Rhode Island College; and Kathleen Smith, RN, MS, PMHCNS, Assistant Professor of Nursing, Rhode Island College.

Mental illness affects the lives of one in four adults and one in 10 children in the United States which essentially means someone in every family has mental illness. By far the most difficult challenge to overcome for people with mental health issues is stigma, setting a person apart from others with feelings of shame and disapproval. The purpose of this workshop is to discuss the effects of stigma across the lifespan, in particular for adolescents, adults and members of the military. The panel members, utilizing vignettes of people’s lived experiences will lead the participants in an open discussion in an attempt to identify strategies to combat the devastating effects of stigma.

Social Isolation, Loneliness, and the Importance of Social Supports

Charlie Feldman, CPRS, Director of Communications, Oasis Wellness and Recovery Center; Jim McNulty, Executive Director, Oasis Wellness and Recovery Center; and Dr. Andy Novick, MD, PhD, affiliated with Brown University, Butler Hospital, and RI Hospital

Major mental illness, throughout the lifespan, can lead to social isolation, stemming from depression, irritability, anxiety and psychosis. Our workshop will address these issues, summarizing the current stage of knowledge and research on mental illness and loneliness, the impact both in mortality and morbidity.  Jim McNulty will moderate a panel of peer experts who will talk about their own experiences with loneliness and isolation, and how they dealt with it. The panel will address how using peer run services has provided recovery support for many individuals, in Rhode Island, in New England and nationwide. The panel will be charged with formulating a vision for peer run services in Rhode Island. Charles Feldman will be lead panelist, and speaking about his decades as a peer supporter, the history of peer support in Rhode Island, and his own experience of loneliness and isolation.

NAMI RI Peers from Past to Present to Future  

Moderator: Jeremiah S. Rainville, CCSP, CPRS, CCHW, Peer Program Manager, Connection Recovery Support Group Facilitator Trainer, Peer-to-Peer Mentor, Peer Leadership Council 2nd Vice Chair, NAMI Rhode Island

Panelists: Annette Joseph, CPRS, CCHW, Peer Program and Event Coordinator, Peer-to-Peer Mentor, Connection Facilitator, Women’s NAMI Connection Group Leader, NAMI Rhode Island; Tammy Cowdell, PRS, Connection Facilitator, Peer-to-Peer Participant, NAMI Rhode Island and Butler Hospital Inpatient Group Facilitator; Tara Boulais, PRS, NAMI Rhode Island, Wellness and Recovery, MHCA Oasis, Group Facilitator, Fatima Hospital, One-to-One Peer Support on Inpatient Unit, Awaiting Peer-to-Peer Educational Course; Chris Brown, Peer Department Volunteer, Peer-to-Peer Participant, NAMI Rhode Island, Awaiting Peer Recovery Specialist Training; Chris Maddison, Veteran, Peer Department Volunteer, Peer-to-Peer Participant, NAMI Rhode Island, Awaiting Peer Recovery Specialist Training

Do you have days or weeks when you’re feeling down and need to speak to someone who is living through some of the same experiences? Are you searching for answers about what mental illness is and how you or someone you care about can begin focusing on recovery? NAMI Rhode Island offers Peer Support to meet you where you are and help you connect with others who understand, because they’ve been down a similar path themselves. In this interactive session, participants will learn more about the wide range of peer-led programs available.

12 to 12:45 pm – Lunch
1 to 2:30 pm – Workshop Session II

Workshop Block II (Afternoon 1- 2:30PM)

The Impact of Lyme Disease on the Brain and Behavior:  Implications for Diagnosis, Treatment and Recovery

Mary Lorusso-DiBara, M.A.; Jeanne Hubbuch, M.D.; and Sheila Statlender, Ph.D.

Lyme disease is one of the fastest growing infectious diseases in the nation. Hundreds of peer-reviewed articles address a causal relationship between Lyme disease and mental symptoms (Bransfield, 2007; Weintraub, 2009).  This workshop will explore the neuropsychiatric symptoms which may be seen in patients with Lyme and related tick-borne diseases, addressing diagnostic challenges and treatment strategies. Attention will be paid to the impact of Lyme encephalopathy on academic and vocational functioning, together with the accommodations necessary to facilitate optimal functioning.  A member of Lyme Support Newport will also be available to answer questions.

Legislative Advocacy     

Marcia Boyd, Esq., Board Member and Advocacy Committee Chair, NAMI Rhode Island; and Ruth Feder, Esq., M.S.W., Executive Director, Mental Health Association of Rhode Island

Learn how to approach legislators and other decisions makers to advocate for key mental health issues. Find out about the 2018 Advocacy Agenda supported by NAMI-RI. Become a part of the process of improving the mental health system in Rhode Island. Share YOUR experiences as an advocate. Learn what is happening this year in the Rhode Island legislature with Mental Health issues. Learn about the new statewide RI Parity Initiative, soon to be launched by the Mental Health Association of Rhode Island, to improve parity in health insurance for Rhode Islanders and to address mental health stigma and bias within the general healthcare system.   Become an informed Mental Health Advocate!!!


The Brain and Mental Illness 

Victoria Heimer-McGinn, PhD, Postdoctoral Associate, Providence College and Chair, Brain Week RI

Hold a preserved human brain in your hands as you learn about the neurobiological mechanisms that underlie neuropsychiatric disease. Join Dr. Heimer-McGinn, a neuroscientist and Chair of Brain Week Rhode Island, as we discuss a variety of subjects, including development of the adolescent brain, the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, drug mechanisms, and animal models of neuropsychiatric disease.


The Evidenced-Based Clubhouse Model: Multi-Generational Strategy for Addressing the “Loneliness Epidemic” and severe effects of Social Isolation             

Mark Maragnano, Clubhouse Director, Hillsgrove House; Karen Morra; Mary Sangas; Bob Walker; John Rego, Program Director, Harbor House

Through the personal testimony of a senior Clubhouse member and a young adult Clubhouse member, with support from the Clubhouse Director, we will explore how the Clubhouse is uniquely designed to effectively support a wide age range across many different demographics.  Through a combination of multi-media, Powerpoint, and structured dialogue, supported by multiple handouts, we will give a complete overview of the model, including history, principals, mileau and program design, and review of evidence of effectiveness.  We will review the latest understanding of the impact of social isolation and review the Clubhouse as an intervention including competitive employment supports, supported education, outreach, social programming, and community inclusion strategies.

2:45 to 3:45 pm – Plenary Session entitled All in the Family: The Power of Education and Support for Family Members of those with Mental Illness, by Michael O’Rourke, Board Member, NAMI Rhode Island, and Dana Dillon, President, NAMI Rhode Island

4 to 5 pm – Closing Session



Bridging the Gaps is made possible by our generous sponsors, who have enabled us to keep admission prices extremely low so that we can promote access, regardless of ability to pay. Our thanks to:






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