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Making Mental Health Resources More Accessible In Rhode Island

July 2, 2007
Providence Business News

Providence, R.I. – Mental illness can be a lonely place. It can undermine your sense of self, your confidence in your own judgment. It can be shameful – a sign of weakness or, worse, of a flaw in your mind that makes you untrustworthy. You may be desperate for help, but terrified to ask.

The Internet, with its anonymity and vast amounts of information, might offer some answers, but it’s also daunting and shapeless. Search for “depression” on Google, and 87.3 million pages come up. “Schizophrenia” brings up 17.3 million. How do you sort through that?

A new Web site unveiled at the State House last Monday offers an alternative: a one-stop site where individuals, families, caregivers and health care professionals can find all the resources they need to learn about mental healthissues, get help, even become advocates.

It’s called the Network of Care for Behavioral Health, and it’s Rhode Island’s connection to a national effort to empower consumers through health information technology.

The program – developed by Trilogy Integrated Resources, in San Rafael, Calif., with money from a state grant – has since grown to include projects in 30 states, though not all are online yet and each uses only one or a few of the six available modules.

The idea, as a brochure puts it, is to ensure there is “no wrong door” through which to enter the behavioral health system: You can go in and search for “depression,” say, pull up some articles, and from there you’ll be led to therapists and community mental health centers, or to support groups in the community. Or you can start by looking for a therapist, and then discover awealth of other resources available to you.

Trilogy’s first Network of Care site focused on aging and long-term care for the elderly and people with disabilities. It was developed as a pilot project, said Bruce Bronzan, founder and president of Trilogy, and within 60 days, there were 13,000 to 14,000 people using the system.

The project was expanded to other counties, and new modules were built focusing on children, domestic violence, developmental disabilities and mental health. And as more participants have joined, the resources have grown.