Newport Mental Health

A History of Care and Recovery

Newport Mental Health’s story is one of innovation and transformation. Since its founding in 1964, Newport Mental Health has grown and expanded, never losing sight of its mission to improve the lives of those who live, work, or study in Newport County. Created by a dedicated group of pioneering community members, Newport County Community Mental Health Center was formed with funding from a State grant and from the communities served:  Jamestown, Little Compton, Middletown, Newport, Portsmouth, and Tiverton. The first offices were in Newport Hospital’s Borden Carey Building.

The organization grew quickly and, in 1971, opened an outreach office in Tiverton. In 1975, through federal grant funding, the organization became Rhode Island’s first Community Mental Health Center (CMHC). Newport Mental Health was incorporated as a private non-profit corporation in 1977 and was designated the community mental health organization responsible for providing mental health services to Newport County residents.

In 1981, a new facility opened at 65 Valley Road in Middletown. This served as the main office for many years and now houses a primary care center in partnership with CODAC, providing integrated healthcare for adult clinics with serious mental illness. The 80s were also a time of expansion of residential services. The first supported residence was established in 1987 and is still in operation as the Anita Jackson House. In 1988, the McKinney Shelter was opened in Newport. It later transitioned to become a separate nonprofit; Newport Mental Health fills two seats on its Board of Directors.

In 1998, Newport Mental Health was accredited by the Joint Commission. This is the nation’s oldest and largest standards-setting and accrediting body on healthcare; Newport Mental Health currently holds gold seal accreditation. During this time, Newport Mental Health moved to a larger facility at 127 Johnny Cake Hill Road in Middletown.

Newport Mental Health continued to expand services from this new location. In 2004, Newport Mental Health was selected as the lead agency in the establishment of the Newport Municipal Court Diversion program, which seeks to find alternatives to incarceration, especially for those suffering from mental illness. Also in 2004, ground was broken on Freedom Apartments, a 12-unit complex for adults with mental health and substance use disorders. The apartments opened in 2006 and have been in continuous operation since. And in 2009, an early childhood day treatment program was established.

In 2014, the organization’s name was officially changed to Newport Mental Health and a strategic business plan was adopted with the goal of achieving federal Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) status. Newport Mental Health then started on the path to becoming Rhode Island’s leader in a person-centered recovery approach to care with responsibility for whole-person care, not just treating their behavioral health disorder.

A major inflection point occurred in 2018, when Newport Mental Health was awarded the first CCBHC federal grant in Rhode Island and was formally recognized as a high-quality CCBHC. Over the next several years, robust and exciting programs were added, including opening a designated children’s service center at 42 Valley Road, placing therapists in Newport County schools, and offering services as an LGBTQ Safe Zone. In addition, a 24/7 Crisis Helpline was established, and mobile crisis counselors were added, along with same-day walk-in services.

In 2023, the innovative Rhode Island Outreach program was added. RIO sends teams out in the community in specially equipped vans, traveling the streets in Newport County in both a reactive role (through calls to 988, our help line) and in a proactive one, visiting shelters and other service centers to seek out the unhoused or others who may need care.

As a respected leader in the community, Newport Mental Health continues to evaluate and adapt to mental health care needs, helping clients navigate successful futures through the establishment of comprehensive, results-driven protocols. With the mission of improving the lives of children, adults, and families living and working in Newport County by providing the highest quality, recovery-oriented, evidence-based, and integrated mental health and substance use care, Newport Mental Health will continue to help clients build hope to rebuild their lives.