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Rhode Island Mental Health Services Guide

Many people don't realize that publicly-funded mental health services are available in their state. People looking for free or low-cost counseling often think their only options are counselors in private practice and don't know that publicly-funded providers in their communities may also offer counseling services. 


While state-based programs are not for everyone, they're often a great place to start for people who face geographic or financial barriers to therapy. Intake specialists at community mental health programs can help people learn whether they qualify for state-funded services and can refer people who don't qualify to other low-cost programs that may be able to meet their needs.


When Should You Go to a State Mental Health Program?


Few private mental health providers are able to immediately serve people in crisis, while most state mental health departments, including Rhode Island's, have crisis response systems that help people get mental health care quickly in an emergency. This usually makes public mental health services the best option if you're having a mental health crisis and need help right away. The people who answer state crisis lines can provide caring attention and support as they help you determine the best response to a crisis, whether it's inpatient treatment or an appointment with a counselor.


Publicly-funded outpatient mental health programs in Rhode Island are called community mental health centers (CMHCs). In addition to affordable therapy, CMHCs provide specialized and intensive services that aren't available anywhere else or that are hard to find in private clinics, like case management, assertive community treatment, and day treatment. Consider going to a CMHC if you need intensive treatment or can't access mental health care in the private sector due to your diagnosis or financial situation.

Who Is Eligible for Public Mental Health Services in Rhode Island?


Like most states' mental health systems, Rhode Island's mental health system prioritizes people who are uninsured or underinsured. However, the Rhode Island behavioral health department does not list these or other financial or clinical eligibility requirements on their official website


Nor do Rhode Island CMHCs list any restrictive eligibility criteria on their individual pages. Most CMHCs simply say their services are available to Rhode Islanders with mental health conditions. Most also mention that they accept both private and public insurance and that they offer a sliding scale. Rhode Island residents may access services at any CMHC in the state, not just the CMHC closest to them. We recommend calling one or more CMHCs where you are interested in receiving services to confirm whether they offer therapy and whether you are eligible.

How Can You Find Out More About Local Programs in Rhode Island?


If you need emergency mental health services, you should call Rhode Island's statewide crisis line, BH Link, at (401) 414-5465. BH Link offers immediate crisis intervention services at its triage center in East Providence and also provides referrals for long-term mental health care. Another option for mental health referrals is Rhode Island 2-1-1. Simply call 2-1-1 or visit their site for more information. Their online database even breaks down mental health listings by service type.


Public mental health services in Rhode Island are managed on the state level by the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals (DBHDDH). For general information about the Rhode Island mental health system, you can call the main DBHDDH number at (401) 462-3201. 


Another way to find out about mental health services in Rhode Island is to call the CMHC where you want to receive services. We've listed numbers for all Rhode Island CMHCs below. We compiled this list using information from the DBHDDH Licensed Providers page. To confirm whether you are eligible for services, whether financial aid is available, and what payment options are accepted, we recommend calling the program you're interested in directly. 



Rhode Island's Mental Health Clinics and Access Numbers



  • BH Link(short-term crisis and referral services only):
    1. Adult Crisis Line: (401) 414-5465
    2. Youth (Under 18) Crisis Line: (855) 543-5465
    3. Triage Center Location:
      • 975 Waterman Avenue (East Providence): (401) 437-4993




  • Fellowship Health Resources:
    1. Crisis Line: (401) 383-4885
    2. Intake Line: (401) 383-4885
    3. Behavioral Health Office Locations: 
      • 45 Sockanosset Cross Road (Cranston): (401) 383-4885


  • Gateway Healthcare:
    1. Crisis Line (Pawtucket): (401) 723-1915
    2. Crisis Line (Johnston): (401) 553-1031
    3. Crisis Line (Charlestown): (401) 364-7705
    4. Intake Line (All Locations): (401) 729-8701
    5. Adult Behavioral Health Office Locations:
      • 101-103 Bacon Street (Pawtucket): (401) 722-3560
      • 1443 Hartford Avenue (Johnston): (401) 273-8100
      • 4705A Old Post Road (Charlestown): (401) 364-7705




  • Thrive Behavioral Health:
    1. Crisis Line: (401) 738-4300
    2. Intake Line: (401) 732-5656
    3. Behavioral Health Office Locations:
      • Post Road Headquarters (Warwick): (401) 691-6000
      • Health Lane (Warwick): (401) 732-5656


Federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) are another option for public mental health care in Rhode Island. These federally-funded programs provide medical and mental health services to people in underserved communities. Their goal is to deliver high-quality coordinated care to people with complex needs and to link behavioral healthcare with primary medical care. Each FQHC accepts Medicaid and Medicare and offers sliding-scale fees to people without insurance. You can search for FQHCs using the online search tool on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website. 


How Does Rhode Island's Public Mental Health System Work?

In the 1960s, Americans started thinking differently about how to treat mental health conditions. New laws required state and local governments to establish community mental health programs as alternatives to institutionalization for people with serious mental illness. Many states trace the origins of their public mental health programs back to this period. 


Rhode Island is no exception. The state founded many of its CMHCs (including Community Care AllianceThe Providence Center, and Newport Mental Health) in the mid-to-late 1960s after President John F. Kennedy signed the Community Mental Health Centers Act in 1963. (In fact, thanks to the work of Rhode Island state senator and national deinstitutionalization advocate John H. Chafee, Rhode Island had already passed its own community mental health law, the Chafee-Slater Act, in 1962.) These same CMHCs are still serving Rhode Islanders to this day.


By the 1980s, Rhode Island was praised as a leader in the community mental health movement, with an excellent system that helped people get the mental health care they needed while living at home. However, like many other states, Rhode Island eventually started cutting mental health funding, especially after the 2008 recession. The state's system suffered as a result. Now, many Rhode Islanders with mental health conditions languish in jails or hospital emergency rooms waiting for a bed in a treatment center or placement in a community-based program.


Fortunately, Rhode Islanders have not forgotten their passion for mental health reform. In 2018, they opened a major new crisis hotline and triage center called BH Link. The impact of BH Link on mental health outcomes in the state has been significant. Rhode Island has also established new mental health funds and been awarded new mental health grants to expand their state system. Thanks to these and other efforts to boost mental health care, Rhode Island was recognized in 2019 by The Commonwealth Fund as "A Most-Improved State in Health Performance."


According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), only 48 percent of people in Rhode Island who have mental health conditions get treatment for them. One reason for the care gap is that people aren't aware of their options for affordable mental health care, including the public mental health system and CMHCs. You can help change these statistics by reaching out and using your local mental health resources to get the care you need.


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