Partnership will solicit feedback from Steering Committee composed of behavioral health supports, social services providers, public safety personnel and community members
July 22, 2021
PROVIDENCE, RI – Mayor Jorge O. Elorza today joined Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3), Tiffney Davidson-Parker President and COO of The Providence Center, Sarah Kelly-Palmer, Vice President of Family Service of Rhode Island, Overdose Prevention Program Director of Project Weber/Renew Dennis Bailer, Director of Healthy Communities Laurie Moïse Sears, Commissioner of Providence Public Safety Steven M. Paré, Providence Police Chief Colonel Hugh Clements and community members to announce an engagement with The Providence Center and Family Service of Rhode Island to analyze the city’s current emergency response systems and develop recommendations for the design of a Behavioral Health Crisis Response Program following an open Request for Proposals earlier this year.
“We are living through a once-in-a-generation moment with the ability to change how we approach public safety and behavioral health issues in our city,” said Mayor Jorge O. Elorza. “Through our partnership with The Providence Center and Family Service of Rhode Island, we can advance our transition to a prevention-first model for dealing with requests for mental health supports or social services. The design of this Behavioral Health Crisis Response Program will ensure that these calls for service are shifted from traditional public safety resources so that trained experts respond to these incidents where individuals need a helping hand and not handcuffs and result in better outcomes.”
Through the Healthy Communities Office, a request for proposals was launched this past February inviting organizations or collaboratives that can provide analysis and planning services related to public safety-related behavioral health and social service interventions/connections to apply for an award of up to $150,000.
“The ongoing effort to improve public safety and social services in our city is something the City Council remains committed to,” said City Council President John J. Igliozzi (Ward 7). “We have heard testimony from residents, social service professionals and other municipalities across the country to gain knowledge and understanding about what diversion services will benefit the city of Providence. I look forward to continuing this effort with Mayor Elorza and the police department, in collaboration with the Providence Center, Family Service of Rhode Island and the Department of Healthy health Communities, and I am optimistic that this new initiative will result in a safer, healthier and stronger city.”
“Thank you to Mayor Elorza, the Providence Center, Family Service Rhode Island and all the partners who have come together to make this behavioral health diversion program a reality in the City of Providence,” said Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune. “By working as a city to build systems for de-escalation and support for residents facing mental and behavioral health issues, we will improve public safety, reduce negative interactions between police and residents, and better focus the police department on its appropriate role.”
The Request for Proposals sought planning services for short-term and proactive care services to ensure that appropriate behavioral and social service interventions are made available for calls that come to the attention of Providence Public Safety. This process resulted from several hearings, meetings, and presentations hosted by the Providence City Council and members of the Administration.
“We are excited to be chosen by the City to design a Behavioral Health Crisis Response Program to meet the changing needs of the Providence community,” said President and COO of The Providence Center Tiffney Davidson-Parker. “Since 1969, our team has been a community resource, providing people from all walks of life with mental health and substance use services in their homes, schools, and neighborhoods. Through over 60 programs and wraparound services, we have a deep understanding of the needs and challenges that impact behavioral health and social service issues for people in Providence. We look forward to participating in this process as the design and vision of this program unfolds.”
The request specifically outlined the following goals of the Behavioral Health Crisis Response Program:
- Ensure that behavioral health and/or social service issues with connections to the Providence Public Safety Department have an appropriate response by behavioral health and/or social service providers.
- Reduce justice involvement in behavioral health and social service issues; and
- Reduce the likelihood of recurring issues and produce better physical and behavioral health outcomes for people in Providence.
The City received five bids and ultimately chose the proposal submitted by The Providence Center and their long-standing partner Family Service of Rhode Island.
“As a statewide provider of community services, we share the City of Providence’s vision to have a trauma-informed, community-driven response to behavioral health and social service crises,” said Sarah Kelly-Palmer, Vice President at Family Service of Rhode Island. “Our decades of experience providing evidence-based and immediate crisis response to our state’s most vulnerable children and families puts us in a unique position to partner with The Providence Center. This will be a comprehensive effort to make informed recommendations that meet the changing needs of our community, create equity, and foster better outcomes for the citizens of Providence.”
The planning process will be co-led by The Providence Center and Family Service of Rhode Island. All aspects of the project will be guided by a multi-disciplinary Steering Committee that includes people with lived experience of behavioral health and/or social service issues, as well as representatives of public safety agencies, behavioral health and social service providers, and community members.
“The needs of our community are constantly evolving, and we are committed to identifying an innovative response to recurring calls to our police and fire departments that will adapt our services to better meet the needs of our community,” said Commissioner Paré. “We look forward to working together with the Providence Center, Family Service of Rhode Island, and members of the Steering Committee regarding their recommendations to enhance our current diversion services as well as implement a new Behavioral Health Crisis Response Program to continue serving the community to the best of our ability as public safety officials.”
In addition to the initial award for the design of the program, the City allocated $600,000 in its Fiscal Year 2022 budget for the administration of the Behavioral Health Crisis Response Program to be led by the City’s Healthy Communities Office.
“As the City of Providence’s lead agency for health policy, the Healthy Communities Office works to ensure that Providence residents have equitable access to the resources they need to lead healthy lives,” said Office of Healthy Communities Director Laurie Moïse Sears. “By working with our colleagues in social services, behavioral health, and public safety, we look forward to ensuring more appropriate care for residents, which we know includes refocusing our resources when appropriate.”
The engagement with The Providence Center and Family Service of Rhode Island is expected to be completed in November 2021 with a final set of recommendations issued in a final report.