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History

1828: The Dexter Asylum in Providence opened to care for the sick and feeble.

1847: Butler Hospital opened one of the most progressive institutions in the nation for treatment of the mentally ill.

1864: The General Assembly appointed a committee to inquire into the expediency of erecting a State asylum.

1869: The General Assembly established a Board of State Charities and Corrections. At the same time, the legislature commissioned the purchase of the William A. Howard farm in Cranston for the establishment of a State Asylum for the Insane and Poor, a State Workhouse and a House of Corrections.

November 1870: 118 mentally ill patients were admitted to the eighteen, wood-framed buildings that were built in the same year.

1878: The Adult Correction Institute, State Prison and Providence County Jail were completed.

1885: The General Assembly adopted a resolution that the State Asylum for the Incurable Insane should serve as a receiving hospital for both chronic and acute cases; thus merging the two.

1888: The General Assembly appropriated funds for a new almshouse to replace the frame building originally built for the insane.

1894: The Prison and Jail contained roughly 150 more inmates than it was intended to house.

1896: Two new buildings were constructed, each containing 20 beds for tuberculosis patients.

1905: The Rhode Island State Sanatorium (later the Dr. U. E. Zambarano Hospital), located on Wallum Lake in Burrillville, opened its doors to serve persons with tuberculosis.

1916: The State assigned social workers to the State Hospital.

1924: The Prison and Jail held twice its capacity, resulting in the addition of a new wing on the building.

1935: The Old Age Assistance Act provided support for persons over 65, helping to keep them out of the “poor house.”

1935: The National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 and subsequent Emergency Relief Appropriation Act in 1935 provided Rhode Island with $12,000,000.00 to put people back to work. A major share of the funding went to the creation of 14 new, brick buildings and additional renovations to facilities at the State Institutions at Howard. Separate funds also added buildings and facilities at the State Sanitarium at Wallum Lake and the Exeter School in South County.

1936: Barry Hall was built and used as a nursing dormitory.

1936: There were still 15 poor farms operating in Rhode Island in addition to the State facilities at Howard.

1950: Since tuberculosis no longer was the threat that it had been for many decades, the mission of the Zambarano Hospital in Burrillville began to evolve into what it is used for today.

1951: The Parents Council for Retarded Children was formed, and for the next several decades. Council members worked to increase opportunities for their children with developmental disabilities.

1952: The Parents Council for Retarded Children voted to become affiliated with the national Association of Retarded Children.

1960: Governor John Notte formulated a plan to place the General Hospital and State Hospital for Mental Disease under one Superintendent, creating a “Medical Center.”

1962: The General Hospital and State Hospital for Mental Disease merged to become the Rhode Island Medical Center. Both facilities were accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) in 1963.

1963: Barry Hall was rededicated.

1967: The Medical Center was divided into The Center General Hospital and Institute of Mental Health. Both hospitals were administered by a new State department; Department of Mental Health, Retardation, and Hospitals (MHRH).

1970: Through deinstitutionalization, many hospital residents from the General Hospital and Zambarano (as well as patients at the Institute of Mental Health) were discharged and placed in “community settings.”

1970: Deinstitutionalization of the Ladd Center was in progress. Overwhelmingly, bond issues passed for the State to purchase and renovate homes in the community for developmentally disabled citizens

1977: The Institute for Mental Health was divided into nine units to deal with specific regions, and categories of patients.

1980: In addition to treatment and counseling, community services for persons with mental illness expanded to include residential services, employment programs and other services.

1986: On July 30, Governor Edward DiPrete announces his intention to close the Joseph H. Ladd School.

1994: The last five residents of the Ladd Center moved into group homes, and the institution closed.

1994: The Institute of Mental Health, the Center General Hospital and the Zambarano Memorial Hospital united to become the Eleanor Slater Hospital. Hospital psychiatric services were provided at the Adult Psychiatric Services Unit, as well as the Psychogeriatric Unit of the hospital. Admissions were streamlined to include individuals in need of long term, hospital-level care.

2000: The Division of Substance Abuse was transferred to MHRH from the RI Department of Health. Mental health services and substance abuse services merged to form the Division of Behavioral Healthcare.

2000: Rhode Island became the first state in the country to adopt integrated behavioral health licensing standards and develop a recovery-oriented system of care.

2000: Director A. Kathryn Power and Craig S. Stenning created the Department’s behavioral disaster team. The 450-person team of volunteers provided treatment within the community following September 11, 2001, the Station Nightclub fire and the floods of 2010.

2001: With a grant from the RI legislature, treatment services for problem gamblers were provided through the Division of Behavioral Healthcare Services.

2001: The State established the Governor’s Council on Behavioral Health to advise the governor and members of the general assembly regarding the policies and goals of the behavioral health programs.

2001: A revitalization of the discharge process from Eleanor Slater Hospital facilitated the appropriate movement of patients, who no longer required hospital level care, to community settings.

June 2001: While A. Kathryn Power was Director, RI was one of seven states to pass a comprehensive mental health and substance abuse parity law.

January 2002: MHRH received an award of appreciation from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for its response to the aftermath of September 11, 2001. The award funds were used to build an infrastructure and train behavioral health professionals to respond to the emotional and psychological needs of those affected by disaster.

2002: A three-year, $9 million federal grant was awarded to the Division of Behavioral Healthcare to develop a comprehensive state-wide prevention plan to reduce the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs by youth and to fund science-based prevention programs.

2003: Rhode Island’s first “Rally4 Recovery” took place on the grounds of the Department of Mental Health, Retardation and Hospitals.

2003: A. Kathryn Power transitions from State government as the Director of the Department of Mental Health, Retardation and Hospitals to federal government, becoming the Director of the Center for Mental Health Services at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, (SAMHSA), in Washington, D.C.

2003: Governor Donald Carcieri named Jane A. Hayward interim director of the Rhode Island Department of Mental Health, Retardation and Hospitals.

January 2003: Due to recent inclement weather, Governor Carcieri’s office requests MHRH officials to prepare Harrington Hall as an emergency shelter for homeless individuals.

February 2003: At the Crowne Plaza in Warwick, RI, MHRH Behavioral Healthcare staff members provide support to the victims immediately following The Station fire. The Division of Behavioral Healthcare set up an emergency operation center in Barry Hall to coordinate the placement of mental health workers, throughout the State, who assisted survivors as well as families and friends of victims of the fire.

March 2004: Governor Donald L. Carcieri and Interim Director Jane Hayward announced the creation of the “Stations of Support” initiative to address long term behavioral health needs of family members, survivors and friends who lost a loved one during the Station Fire.

March 2004: Governor Donald L. Carcieri signed an Executive Order creating the Office of Health and Human Services, designed to facilitate cooperation among the five State agencies that administer Rhode Island’s critical health care and social service programs.

2004: Interim Director Jane Hayward was named managing director of the newly created Office of Health and Human Services.

May 2004: Governor Donald L. Carcieri named Kathleen M. Spangler Acting Director of the Department of Mental Health, Retardation and Hospitals.

2004: MHRH State Employees Charity Appeal (SECA) Steering Committee presented the traditional silver bowls to three MHRH agencies for outstanding results in the 2003 SECA drive.

March 2005: The Zambarano Unit of Eleanor Slater Hospital received the “Outstanding Operations Award” at Atlantic States Rural Water and Wastewater Association’s Statewide Technical Conference and Exhibition.

2006: The Rhode Island Senate confirmed Dr. Ellen Nelson as Director of the Department of Mental Health, Retardation and Hospitals.

2007: For the first time, contracts for State-funded inpatient psychiatric care and substance abuse detoxification were combined.

March 2009: “Spread the Word to End the Word Day,” Governor Carcieri and Craig S. Stenning then began the process of renaming MHRH, removing the “R-word” from the Department’s name.

March of 2009: Craig Stenning confirmed as Director of the Department of Mental Health, Retardation, and Hospitals (MHRH) after serving as Interim Director for nine months.

July 2010: The Department of Mental Health, Retardation and Hospitals became the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals.

February 2012: The Rhode Island Rally4 Recovery was named the National Hub Event for 2013.

September 2012: The Rally4 Recovery celebrated its tenth anniversary. Over 6,000 people attended the event.

2014: The State of RI enters into a landmark settlement agreement with the United States Department of Justice. Enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ensures that individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities have greater access and opportunity. The State pledges a sustained commitment to transform its service system over 10 years, providing integrated employment and day services to approximately 3,250 individuals.

January 2015: Governor Gina Raimondo announces her appointment of Maria Montanaro as Director of BHDDH

June 2015: BHDDH hosts the first Governor’s Mental Health Summit at the Radisson Hotel to a capacity crowd of 250 participants.

Side Notes:

60’s: The “Mental Retardation Facilities and Community Mental Health Centers Act”, written and championed by RI Congressman John Fogarty, was passed by Congress in 1963. This had a profound effect on mental health services in the State, providing funds for the development of eight community mental health centers located in catchment areas throughout Rhode Island.

90’s: MHRH developed a CHOICES waiver, dealing mainly with acute care services, creating a single funding stream, and dramatically increasing the kinds of services available in the community support network. While MHRH withdrew the CHOICES in 1997, many of its key concepts, such as increasing the individual’s control over his or her service needs, remain in effect.