Lifespan Community Affairs

Bradley Hospital Community Forums

“There is no doubt, Bradley Hospital saved our little guy,” said Russ Raposa, as he passionately described the impact Bradley had on his now 16-year-old son, who has an autism spectrum disorder.

 Community Liaisons facilitate community forums

More Information

For more information about the Community Health Needs Assessment meetings or the Lifespan Community Health Institute, please contact Carrie Bridges Feliz, MPH at 401-444-8009 or cbridgesfeliz@lifespan.org.

Raposa, a member of the hospital’s Family Advisory Council and the Board of Governors for the Bradley Hospital Foundation, spoke at a recent community forum sponsored by Lifespan held at the Rhode Island Parent Information Network office in Cranston.

Raposa was joined by a number of clinicians and child advocates at the forum, which was one in a series of more than 20 meetings held statewide as part of the Community Health Needs Assessment for Lifespan’s hospitals.

“We came to Bradley, and to Dr. (Zen) Meservy, because we wanted to keep Tommy safe, and to keep others safe. It’s been amazing how far he’s come,” said Raposa.

As Tommy approached his teen years, said Raposa, he became increasingly frustrated and aggressive. He said he and his wife, Karen, were desperate for support. Raposa, a veteran law enforcement officer, feared that as his son grew physically bigger and stronger, his acting out could put Tommy or someone else in harm’s way.

At Bradley, the Raposas have found resources for themselves and for Tommy, including identifying a school setting specializing in autism that helps Tommy to cope with his inability to communicate verbally. The couple has become part of a network of informal family ambassadors who share their gratitude for Bradley Hospital’s unique focus on pediatric mental health.

“We just can’t give enough back,” said Tommy’s father.

Facilitated by Community Liaison Geraldine McPhee, the forum included a dozen participants who identify areas of concern that could serve to improve the delivery of mental health services.

Several school counselors and social workers shared their concerns over the increasing levels of daily stress they see in their students who are impacted by a variety of factors, including drug use, bullying, dating violence and the blurry boundaries of appropriate interaction on social media versus real life.

Community advocates like North Providence Health Equity Zone coordinators Liz Vachon and Lisa Donohue echoed those concerns. They noted that their collection of needs assessment data yielded alarming rates of depression, stress and anxiety among even elementary and middle school students. Their grant-funded work addresses core platforms in preventative health, including nutrition, exercise, asthma control and stress management.

By the end of the session, more than 50 ideas or topics for further exploration filled the chart paper at the front of the room. The participants agreed, for organization purposes, to parse these out into common themes: data collection, stress, substance abuse, access to services, systems and structures, prevention measures and environmental factors affecting mental health.

Lifespan’s Community Health Institute is gathering and evaluating the feedback collected at each of these community sessions, with an eye toward future program and service planning.