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State of Rhode Island General Assembly
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Rep. Tanzi honored for her advocacy for mental health
STATE HOUSE – Local mental and behavioral health advocates and leaders gathered recently to honor Rep. Teresa A. Tanzi for her passionate and determined advocacy for support for mental and behavioral health resources for Rhode Islanders.
This legislative session, Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett) championed the passage of a resolution (
) asking the Rhode Island Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner to examine, publicly report data on, and make recommendations for addressing the critical inadequacy of access to behavioral health services in Rhode Island’s commercial health insurance networks. The report is due by March 1, 2024.
Representative Tanzi also sponsored legislation (
) this session to raise commercial health insurers’ reimbursement rates. In advocating for these two bills, she helped to raise awareness among her General Assembly colleagues of the behavioral and mental health care crisis in Rhode Island.
Leaders and advocates for mental and behavioral health organized a special breakfast, held Sept. 15 at Thrive Behavioral Health in Warwick, to recognize Representative Tanzi for her work. Speakers included Thrive Behavioral Health President and CEO Dan Kubas-Meyer; Ana Novais, assistant secretary of the Rhode Island Executive Office of Health and Human Services; and Sandra Victorino, chair of the Mental Health Association of Rhode Island and director of workforce development, diversity inclusion and community relations at Care New England.
“We are thrilled to honor Representative Tanzi. Her compassion for, and dedication to, Rhode Islanders with mental health conditions and substance use disorder have been instrumental in moving important legislation forward. Her advocacy has raised awareness among other leaders and garnered attention and investment in the behavioral healthcare system. It’s exciting to see this movement taking off,” said Mental Health Association of Rhode Island Executive Director Laurie-Marie Pisciotta.
In appreciation of her efforts, the organizers of the event presented Representative Tanzi with a painting titled “Endless Thoughts,” created for her by artist Jeff Sparr of PeaceLove, based in Providence. PeaceLove promotes mental wellness by using creativity and expression to inspire, heal, and communicate. They also presented her with a butcher block cutting board handcrafted by The Carpenter’s Shop, a vocational training program offered to residents of the Adult & Teen Challenge program.
According to the 2022 Rhode Island Health Insurance Survey, the number of people reporting a delay in accessing mental health care, or care not received, because their insurance wasn’t accepted increased from 3.9 percent in 2020 to 4.3 percent in 2022. Additionally, the survey indicated the number of people reporting a delay in mental health care, or care not received, because they could not find an available provider jumped from 5.2 percent in 2020 to 8.2 percent in 2022.
Many Rhode Islanders have been placed on waitlists for outpatient care because the state lacks enough in-network providers. One significant and correctible factor is stagnant and low reimbursement rates, which make it difficult for providers to keep up with the rising costs of keeping their practices or centers open. As a result, providers move their practices out of state, switch jobs frequently, or stop participating in insurance networks. Some have permanently closed their doors.
IN PHOTO: Rep. Teresa A. Tanzi, center, with Mental Health Association of Rhode Island Executive Director Laurie-Marie Pisciotta, left, and Sandra Victorino, chair of the Mental Health Association of Rhode Island and director of workforce development, diversity inclusion & community relations at Care New England.
For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
Lt. Governor's Office
Secretary of State
Link to Public Records Request