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The Bristol Health Equity Zone (HEZ) Suicide Prevention Group is celebrating the culmination of three years of work with the installation of a new bridge sign, which advertises local 24/7 mental health resources, at the entrances to the Mount Hope Bridge.

The HEZ group brought the idea to Rhode Island Bridge and Turnpike Authority Executive Director Buddy Croft who agreed with the concerns of the coalition about rising suicide rates and the need for people in crisis to know where to turn for local, immediately available mental health resources.

The idea for a new sign began with former Bristol Parks and Recreation Director Walter Burke, who initiated discussions locally. Mr Burke, who was instrumental in securing the Health Equity Zone grant for Bristol in 2015, connected Lynn and John Patton of the Matthew Patton Foundation, named for their son who died by suicide, with the HEZ group that would evolve into a coalition which meets monthly to address suicide prevention efforts within the community.

Bristol HEZ co-coordinator Emily Spence is grateful for the level of community engagement with such a difficult topic. “It’s wonderful to look around the table and see our town and police leadership, RWU leaders, the Matthew Patton Foundation, state legislators, mental health professionals, and community members. All of us believe in the importance of removing the stigma around mental health, providing Resources, and making sure people know where to turn in times of crisis. This is a perfect illustration of how the Health Equity Zone model works; a collaborative of people from different fields coming together to address one of the most pressing public health concerns in our community.”

The Bristol Health Equity Zone is in its fifth year of operation. It is a community-wide effort, funded through the Rhode Island Department of Health by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Health Resources and Services Administration, to create innovative approaches that can reduce and manage chronic diseases, promote healthy lifestyles, assure healthy child development, and create environments where healthy choices are easier to make.

Anyone wishing to get involved with the Bristol HEZ can call the Bristol Parks and Recreation at (401) 253-1611.

Ryan M. Belmore

Ryan M. Belmore is the Owner & Publisher of What's Up Newp. Ryan is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers. Send questions, tips, and story ideas to Ryan@whatsupnewp.com.