From Sen. DiMario: "LET RI VOTE!" gets a vote this week
Hello Neighbor —
This week I have lottery registration for public Pre-K and the last few days to sign up for the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program up top, followed by the Top 3 for this edition: a vote on Let RI Vote!, how I am working to improve mental health care in Rhode Island, and looking ahead to Election Day 2022. Plus, The Act On Climate turns one! Thanks for reading!
Community Programs & Assistance
Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program: Eligible participants can now sign up from March 1st – April 15th at the locations listed in this link for the first round of the NEW produce box delivery program of the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP). Those who sign up will receive a free food box filled with fresh, local, produce with a value of $20. Produce will be provided by local farmers and delivered by Farm Fresh Rhode Island (FFRI) at these chosen locations on a specified delivery day. For additional senior locations to be considered for receiving a produce box delivery in the second round of the bulk purchase program in 2022, please email: DEM.SFMNP@dem.ri.gov or contact one of the listed Nutrition Programs - which include the Narragansett Community Center and the North Kingstown Senior Center.
Public Pre-K Lottery OPEN: If you have a child who will be 4 by September 1, 2022 and you live in one of the cities or towns listed (North Kingstown is included!), enter the lottery for public Pre-K here before July 6, 2022!
1. Let RI Vote! Gets a Vote This Week!
You may have noticed that usually you are reading my newsletter on a Friday, and typically I focus on things that have happened over the previous few weeks. This time I'm shaking things up a little to talk about something that is coming up in the week ahead: The Let RI Vote! Act will be voted on in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, April 12, which means it will move to a vote by the full Senate in the coming weeks. I highlight this because so many voters in District 36 have contacted me both this session and last to advocate for the passage of the Let RI Vote! Act, which would make popular voting options that increase accessibility like Early, In Person Voting and Drop Boxes for Mail Ballots permanent, as well as work to make our elections more secure with regular Voter List Maintenance. I had the chance to attend a community event in North Kingstown commemorating the anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights Marches, and heard from the League of Women Voters, the ACLU, T.A.N.K., and educators and students about the importance of ensuring that everyone has equal access to the ballot box. We have the tools to make our elections fit the way we live and work now, and the ability to ensure they are secure. It's time to pass Let RI Vote!, and I can't wait to cast my vote for it on the Senate floor!
2. Mental Health Matters
When I ran for State Senate in 2020, a key part of my platform was the importance of having the voice and perspective of a mental health therapist included when making policy decisions, especially around our mental health care system. With that in mind, here are the bills I am sponsoring this session that are focused on making our mental health continuum of care in Rhode Island work for people who need care as well as providers:
S2086: Increasingly, mental health care providers aren't accepting insurance and instead see only clients who pay out of pocket. One reason for this is that getting paid by insurance companies can be difficult and unpredictable. This bill addresses the practice of "clawbacks," where an insurance company can come back to a provider up to 18 months later to dispute payment of a claim and take back the money that had been paid. S2086 reduces that time period to 12 months to help provide more stability for providers and keep them in network with insurance companies, increasing access for clients.
S2105: This bill was introduced in conjunction with the Department of Defense and establishes best-practice reporting guidelines between the local Military Family Advocacy Program and DCYF, to ensure that in cases of reported child abuse or neglect that the child receives the best possible support and outcomes if either the child's family or the perpetrator are involved with the military, and no one falls through the cracks due to lack of communication.
S2120: Currently, children under 14 who have been the victims of sexual abuse can use a recorded video interview, conducted at the Child Advocacy Center by a trained expert and with the oversight of the Attorney General's office, as their testimony for a grand jury proceeding to determine if a criminal charge should be pursued. This bill would raise the age to 18, with the intent of providing a safer avenue for older child victims to pursue justice after they have been abused.
S2576: We have a shortage of mental health counselors and social workers in Rhode Island, and we need to fix that. One barrier is the time and expense of becoming a professional in these areas, which includes hundreds of hours of unpaid, required internship work. This bill empowers the Commissioner of Postsecondary Education to develop rules and regulations around using available external funding sources to pay students at public universities for their significant internship requirements to help remove that barrier.
S2605: This bill would allow Rhode Island to enter into the Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact, which would allow Rhode Island's psychologists to provide telehealth services across state lines with the 31 states that are already participating. Telehealth is here to stay, and helps ensure consistency of care which leads to better outcomes. The Compact has a high level of patient protections and allows Rhode Island patients and practitioners more choice and access to high quality care.
S2614: Ensuring Rhode Island's kids get off to the best possible start in life includes giving them a good foundation of emotional well-being. This bill would create a plan for implementing best practices for children 0-6 and their caregivers to make sure we are identifying and intervening early where the impact on their future development can be the greatest.
S2616: 44 other states allow for graduates of accredited mental health and marriage and family counseling programs to obtain an associates license after graduation, before completing the two years of full time work and supervision that allow them to be independently licensed, and I believe Rhode Island should join them. This bill would allow qualified graduates to see clients who have commercial/private insurance in addition to Medicaid which is already allowed. Making this change to a 2-tiered license structure would immediately increase access for Rhode Islanders needing counseling, and would increase income for new graduates.
S2617: Creates parity with a 2-step licensure process that would match what is described in S2616, and also requires that the licensure exam for independent licensing be offered in languages other than English. Mental health and social workers who can provide services in languages other than English are in high demand, and the subjective and nuanced nature of the exam makes it difficult for graduates who have English as a second language, which does not accurately reflect their clinical skills.
These eight bills are a small piece of the complex puzzle of fixing our mental health care system here in Rhode Island, along with financial investments in the form of rate setting changes and establishing needed facilities such as the psychiatric residential treatment facility for girls covered in a previous newsletter. I am committed to continuing to work with my colleagues to put the pieces together and do what it takes to improve this system, for the well-being of all Rhode Islanders!
3. Election 2022- I Need Your Help!
I can't believe we are already back in an election year again, but here we are! I am excited to have the chance to continue to serve in the Rhode Island State Senate, but I can't do it without your support. I believe that my voice, perspective, commitment, and hard work in the Senate have helped to shape policies and priorities for our state in a positive direction helping with health care access, addressing climate change and community resiliency, and supporting workers and small businesses. If you agree and you want to help keep me there for another two years, here's how you can help:
Make a Donation Here! Any amount will be put to good use helping me communicate with constituents to make the case for why keeping me in the Senate matters. Everything from my website and mailings to the creation of this newsletter to reach constituents is paid for by campaign dollars, and this time I have a whole additional town and a half to talk to!
Sign Up to Volunteer! Want to come knock doors with me? Host a gathering and invite your neighbors for me to meet? Make phone calls? Hold a sign on Election Day? Not sure yet but you'd like to do something? Sign up here and we will find a role that fits you best, I'd love to have you join me!