Sen. Joshua Miller and Rep. Frank Ferri were presented the 2013 “Bell of Hope” award from the Mental Health Association of Rhode Island today during a ceremony at the State House to launch the “May is Mental Health Month” campaign.
The award was presented to acknowledge Representative Ferri’s and Senator Miller’s longstanding and continuing efforts in the General Assembly to work for legislation to improve the lives of Rhode Islanders in need of mental health services and for their efforts to address other issues that affect the quality of life of individuals with mental health issues.
While the annual award is usually given to just one legislator each year, according to Susan Jacobsen, executive director of the Mental Health Association of Rhode Island, the organization decided both Senator Miller and Representative Ferri have provided so much support to the various elements affecting mental health that they should both be honored. In particular, she cited Representative Ferri’s strong advocacy for mental health parity at every level, and Senator Miller’s sponsorship of legislation to create a pilot program to divert patients with pressing behavioral health problems away from emergency rooms and into a more appropriate setting where they can get the help they need.
The awards were presented by Rep. Scott A. Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence), the winner of the 2012 Bell of Hope award.
Both Representative Ferri and Senator Miller said they were humbled by the honor, and thanked the many other advocates whose diligent work makes improvements in mental health care possible.
“All of the people here today, I urge you to hurry up and get back to work,” said Senator Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence) to the many supporters and advocates for mental health gathered at the event. “You are the people who do the important work, who make improvements in mental health possible. People need you.”
Said Representative Ferri (D-Dist. 22, Warwick), “Mental health is absolutely just as important as physical health as a part of wellness. We all look forward to the day when that is widely understood and society has as much compassion for those suffering from mental health illnesses as those with physical illnesses, and devotes the resources needed to address them.”
The Bell of Hope award derives from the symbol of the National Mental Health Association. The Mental Health Bell, made for the association by a foundry in Baltimore, was cast from the melted-down iron chains and shackles once used to restrain patients held in asylums.
The State House ceremony, attended by Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee and other state officials, begins a month of events to raise awareness of mental health conditions and mental health wellness. More information is available at the association’s website, www.mhari.org.